Bangladesh + 1 more

ACAPS Briefing Note: Bangladesh: Rohingya refugee response – fire in camps 8E, 8W and 9 (25 March 2021)

Originally published



A devastating fire broke out in the Kutupalong Balukhali Extension (KBE) on 22 March 2021 at 3pm, starting in camp 8W and spreading through camps 8E and 9, touching camp 10 (IOM 23/03/2021), and damaging a reported 200 structures in the host community (BDNews 23/03/2021). The damage caused by the fire significantly sets back the humanitarian response and exacerbates the existing needs of the Rohingya, who already live in precarious conditions. While fires in the camps are common, this fire was described as unlike any other fire seen in the camps since 2017.

As at 24 March, out of the 124,381 people living in the four camps (UNHCR 28/02/2021), 45,000 are estimated to be displaced and tentative preliminary figures based on IOM data suggest the total number of people affected is 88,000 (WFP 23/03/2021). Of the displaced, thousands of people are being re-hosted in other camps and preliminary assessments indicate that at least 10,000 shelters and 1,600 facilities have been destroyed or damaged (Preliminary information from operational actors 23/02/2021). 11 people have been confirmed dead, more than 500 are estimated to have required some form of medical assistance, and approximately 400 reported temporarily missing from their area (IOM 23/03/2021; Prothom Alo 23/03/2021; Al Jazeera 23/02/2021).

Rohingya refugee volunteers mobilized immediately to support the community as first responders (IOM 23/03/2021; IFRC 23/03/2021; UNHCR 23/03/2021). Government response services, including the fire brigade and army, also tried to control and put out the fire (BDNews 22/03/2021).


Camp 9 sustained the most damage; IOM figures indicate that nearly its entire population lost their homes and belongings. Camps 8E and 8W faced significant damage, while camp 10 sustained some damage along its border with camp 9. Families whose shelters were not damaged or destroyed are still affected by the damage to latrines, water pumps, health facilities, learning centers, markets, and distribution sites. Those affected need shelter, water, food, medical support, and access to toilets and bathing facilities. This puts additional pressure on already strained facilities and services supporting the Rohingya across KBE. These households will also likely suffer trauma due to the size and scope of the fire and the damage. Previous accounts of violence in Myanmar repeatedly included references to fire and the razing of villages. Thus, psychosocial support that is extended beyond households whose homes were destroyed is necessary.

The health centres that burned down (IOM hospital, Turkish field hospital, MSF clinic) did not only serve the affected camps but served the wider Rohingya population and the Bangladeshi host community. The loss of these hospitals will have a long-term impact on being able to adequately meet the health needs of the Rohingya in the camps. Other long-term impacts will include mental health and psychosocial wellbeing and the decreased ability of refugees to meet their basic needs because of the loss of savings and personal belongings.