First downpours of 2018 hits Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar as monsoon season nears
April 19, Cox’s Bazar – The first heavy rains of 2018 have hit Cox’s Bazar ahead of the much dreaded monsoon season, drenching refugee camps that are now home to nearly 800,000 Rohingya.
There was some rain early on Wednesday followed by a heavy downpour this morning. The rain comes during what’s known as the pre-monsoon season—when severe storms and heavy rains are common—before Bangladesh’s devastating monsoon season starts in earnest in late May or early June.
Save the Children’s media and communications manager in Cox’s Bazar, Daphnee Cook, said heavy rain fell for over an hour today with sporadic showers forecast over the coming days.
“As we feared, this first deluge is already wreaking havoc in the camps, with a number low-lying areas flooded and access made much more difficult. It was alarming how quickly dirt turned into mud and puddles the size of wading pools formed.”
She said the rains threaten an already vulnerable population.
“These rains signal even harder times ahead for Rohingya families who fled brutal violence in Myanmar before coming to Bangladesh. Not only are they facing grim conditions in overcrowded refugee camps where they rely on food rations to survive, but now they have to worry about dangerous storms, heavy rains and the risk of flooding and landslides, as well as an increased likelihood of outbreaks of disease,” Ms Cook said.
“This weather is particularly concerning for children, who risk becoming separated from their families and caregivers, as well as developing skin diseases due to increased humidity. They also risk losing access to vital services like health clinics, nutrition centres and child friendly spaces, which provide them with a sense of calm and happiness in the camps.”
Save the Children has ramped up its monsoon preparation work in recent months, distributing shelter upgrade kits for the most at-risk homes, improving critical infrastructure like drains and bridges, reinforcing landslide-prone hillsides, and providing children with identity bracelets and guidance so they can be easily reunited with their families if they become separated in the rains. The aid agency has also strengthened facilities like health posts and child friendly spaces, and is making many of these services ‘mobile’ in order to reach those who aren’t able to move around because of the rains.
“For months, aid agencies and UN and government bodies have been working around the clock to help prepare local communities. Now that the first rains have hit, that preparation work is being put into action. Save the Children teams are ready to do whatever is required in Cox’s Bazar to support Rohingya and host community families in need,” Ms Cook said.
“It’s important that the international community steps up and fully funds the humanitarian response before the worst of the monsoon season is upon us. We also want to see more accessible and usable land allocated in Cox’s Bazar to relocate the most at-risk Rohingya families living in areas prone to flooding or landslides.
“In the coming months we’re going to see regular heavy rains that are guaranteed to bring even further hardship – destroying people’s shelters, flooding roads and making access to the camps extremely difficult. Making matters worse, we’re also at the beginning of the cyclone season. If a big storm hits the camps, it would be nothing short of disastrous.”
For media inquiries contact Daphnee Cook in Cox’s Bazar on +880 170 121 2608 or Evan Schuurman in Bangkok on +66 989 725 908.
- Save the Children has been responding to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Cox’s Bazar since 2012. Following the latest arrival of more than 670,000 refugees, the aid agency dramatically scaled up operations, reaching more than 637,000 newly arrived Rohingya, including through distributions of food, hygiene, shelter and household items, by setting up nine emergency health posts, installing more than 500 latrines and 30 deep tube wells, and running nearly 100 centres that support children’s wellbeing and learning in their mother tongue, Rohingya.