Bangladesh is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in its history due to an unprecedented influx of refugees from Myanmar. As of December 2017, the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) estimates that 623,969 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since August 2017. These 623,969 refugees have joined 212,518 that have fled in earlier waves of displacement, for a total refugee population of 836,487.
In response to the crisis, the humanitarian community developed a Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). The Government of Bangladesh (GoB) restricted the construction of semi-permanent and permanent structures in both refugee camps and makeshift camps. Poor shelter conditions have further exposed the Rohingya population to risks of floods, cyclones and landslides.
The target of shelter support within the HRP is to meet 100 percent of people’s shelter needs. This translates into safe shelter for 949,000 people, or 180,000 households.
The initial stage (called phase 1) of the Rohingya crises involved rapid, mass displacement of populations, during which shelter needs focused on access to adequate shelter for survival and dignity.
Various humanitarian actors provided emergency shelter kits (ESK) for essential security and personal safety, protection from the climate and enhanced resistance to disease and ill health. ESK developed by the shelter sector included tarps, rope and bamboo. However, in the initial response, most agencies provided an acute version of these items, which excluded bamboo. In most cases, the refugee families procured some bamboo themselves, or foraged for sticks and timber in the surrounding forest to construct rudimentary makeshift shelters.
Given that shelters had already been constructed but were far below standards in terms of living conditions and structural integrity, rather than using bamboo in the emergency kits the sector developed and promoted the shelter upgrade kit (USK), or phase 2. This kit consists of tarps, bamboo, fixings, tools and technical assistance with the aim of improving living conditions (with site improvements contributing to the effort) and shelter structural stability to better withstand climatic conditions. Because of the scale of the crisis and the urgency to respond before the monsoon season, the Shelter and NFI Sector decided in November to reorient whatever was already in the pipeline for ESK, toward the USK. The ESK had included four bamboo Borak and 55 Bamboo Mulli, whereas the USK includes four bamboo Borak and 60 bamboo Mulli per household.
The Shelter and NFI Sector (led by IOM), National Shelter Cluster, IOM, Caritas Bangladesh, CRS,
UNHCR, Christian Aid, Save the Children, Handicap International and ECHO conducted a joint Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) between October 30, 2017 and November 22, 2017. The EMMA sought to answer the following questions:
What is the capacity of markets to supply Bamboo/Timber for the Shelter upgrade to 100% of the target population?
Is a market-based response appropriate for the Shelter upgrade response?
Are there risks associated with market-based response options for Shelter upgrade?
As of November 16, 2017—or 2.5 months after the start of massive displacement—only 31% of households targeted had been covered with the bamboo Borak, while materials were in the pipeline for the remaining 24% of the target population and had yet to be distributed. In the same period, 19% households target had received the Bamboo Borak, and 11% had received the Bamboo Mulli with the ESK.
Because the reports of bamboo distributed do not match field observations for meeting the needs of the ESK, and with ESK materials already in the pipeline now being redirected toward USK, it is difficult to estimate the gap for covering 100% of the needs of the USK without double counting what is already distributed or in the pipeline. However, if we plan to meet 100% of the USK needs, 720,000 Bamboo Borak and 10,800,000 Bamboo Mulli are needed.
The bamboo supply is available, but it can take an average of 30 days and up to three months to complete bulk order;
The bamboo demand for emergency shelter (phase 1) is satisfied despite the slow progress on meting ESK targets, since many refugees personally found and brought back bamboo from nearby forest or markets;
A big market or demand for timber doesn’t exists since the need for emergency shelter is mostly met.
Also, the purchasing power of Rohingya refugees is limited due to the restriction of movement enforced by the GoB, and because bamboo Mulli is less costly than timber for families building their own emergency shelters;
80% of vendors surveyed sell only bamboo, and 3.49% sell only timber;
Prices for bamboo Borak have significantly inflated (by more than 24%), while Bamboo Mulli has had limited inflation (+6%) and timber has had almost no inflation (=+1%). However, timber is considerably more expensive (at least three times more than Bamboo Mulli) and less in demand;
Markets in the area of intervention are poorly integrated;
34% of vendors surveyed are opportunistic, 96.51% of vendors surveyed have mobile phones and 38.37% accept mobile phone payments;
Severe deforestation is happening at regional and local levels to satisfy demand within the mega camp of Kuthapalong and Balukhali: the equivalent of enough trees to cover the surface of 1,000 soccer fields are needed every year for firewood.