Significant investments in emergency water and sanitation were made in 2017/18 to address the immediate needs of over 725,000 refugees who fled violence in Myanmar in August 2017, as well as to prevent environmental and public health crises occurring in settlements.
There was limited space for new WASH facilities, and introducing harmonised standards remains a challenge due to a number of actors initiated latrine and other WASH responses immediately. A rapid needs assessment shortly after the influx observed open defecation as a common practice. UNHCR and its partners continue providing support and seek sustainable solutions for both refugees and host communities.
UNHCR and partners have developed standards suitable for the topography and the emergency nature of the response, including latrines with larger volume pits. WASH facilities currently cover all refugees within emergency standards. In addition to water purification tablets, water containers for collection and storage were distributed as part of hygiene kits. Menstrual hygiene kits were also distributed to girls and women, and hygiene promotion activities undertaken. Small and medium-sized fecal sludge units have been constructed, while a large-scale unit is being developed. UNHCR also helps repair drainage systems and latrines in schools as part of the Quick Impact Projects to support Bangladeshi communities affected by the influx.
In order to provide sustainable water supply, a chlorinated water network plan has been designed for 735,000 people in both Teknaf and Ukhiya sub-districts. About 15 per cent of these networks are under construction, and concerned WASH sector members are coordinating closely to ensure timely and appropriate implementation of this plan. UNHCR trained WASH field teams, comprising WASH experts from partner organisations and refugee volunteers, to conduct rapid assessments and to quickly repair damaged facilities during the monsoon season. Refugee volunteers were also trained in emergency WASH response and preparedness. Furthermore UNHCR conducted hydrogeological surveys in Teknaf and Ukhiya to identify suitable locations to drill for safe and adequate amount of water.