Aid workers race to prepare Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps for monsoon wind, rain
Cox’s Bazar – When Cyclone Fani – one of the most powerful Indian Ocean storms of the past decade – barrelled up the Bay of Bengal a week ago making landfall in northern India and western Bangladesh, it left 24 people dead, a trail of destruction and thousands displaced. Some 2.6 million people – a million in India and 1.6 million in Bangladesh – were evacuated from its path, potentially saving thousands of lives.
Aid workers in Cox’s Bazar, the southern district of Bangladesh where nearly a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar live in crowded makeshift camps constructed from bamboo and plastic sheet, breathed a sigh of relief. Fani passed north of the camps, dumping heavy rain and causing minor damage, but leaving the vulnerable refugees and local communities largely unscathed.
But with further cyclones possible and the monsoon expected to bring the first heavy rains in June, IOM camp managers recognize the risks and the need to prepare for the worst. Preparations for Fani – which included the deployment of 200 IOM staff and 250 trained volunteers to help the refugees prepare for the storm, together with the distribution of over 90,000 “Tie Down Kits” consisting of ropes, wire and sandbags – were something of a “dress rehearsal” for future bad weather, according to IOM Bangladesh Deputy Chief of Mission Manuel Pereira.