Shelter has been a critical need for over 730,000 refugees. At the beginning of the influx, new arrivals often stayed in the open or lived with other refugees and among local communities or formed new settlements. UNHCR responded to their needs for shelter by distributing Emergency Shelter kits, followed with other materials to assist refugees upgrade their shelters as well as tie-down kits in preparation for the monsoon season. Overcrowding and lack of space still remain a key challenge.
Many of the settlement areas are prone to flooding and landslides due to their hilly locations in Cox’s Bazar. UNHCR collaborated with IOM and WFP through an engineering platform called the Site Management Engineering Project (SMEP) to develop land and infrastructure across all refugee settlements, including preparing flat land in the large Kutupalong refugee settlement. UNHCR and it's partners designed and built stronger and better-built shelters in the newly prepared land for over 1,300 refugee households prioritised for urgent relocation before and during the monsoon season in mid-2018. Additionally, UNHCR and partner agencies continue to construct facilities and improved infrastructure in the settlements. The Government of Bangladesh has approved a mid-term shelter strategy (MTS strategy), as assistance in the refugee settlements is shifting to medium-term planning. As part of the MTS strategy, UNHCR is advocating for the construction of ‘transitional shelters’. UNHCR is also delivering on innovative shelter alternatives to address spatial constraints and congestion in the settlements. These shelters would need to be built with specific site planning, in which UNHCR is engaging the authorities. UNHCR and BRAC established new plants to treat bamboo which will be used for all future construction.
Treated bamboo may last for 10-12 years by protecting it from fungi, insects and other biological and physical elements