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Immediate Needs: In response to the fire in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, Bangladesh

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UNHCR Bangladesh is urgently appealing for $5.9 million to support critical humanitarian needs following the devastating fire which broke out on 22 March in the Kutupalong Balukhali camps.

Government emergency services and humanitarian agencies coordinated to put out the fire and provide immediate medical assistance, as well as mental health and psychosocial support. Refugee volunteers and members of the host community were among the first responders, helping people to safety and supporting fire response and relief efforts.

Some 48,000 people have now been displaced, most of whom are temporarily accommodated within the community, and over 9,500 shelters are estimated to have been destroyed or damaged along with more than 1,600 facilities, including hospitals, learning centres, distribution points and a UNHCR registration centre.

The Cox’s Bazar-based Inter Sector Coordination Group has been coordinating the emergency response under the leadership of the Government of Bangladesh, with a lead role for IOM as the affected camps are under its management.

As part of the inter-agency response, UNHCR has been rushing to provide critical assistance and protection to some 48,000 Rohingya refugees who lost their shelters and belongings in the devastating blaze, focusing on the below areas of intervention. UNHCR’s immediate support to impacted refugees in the first days is detailed in the regular situation reports available on Global Focus here, but further support is needed to sustain the response.

Urgent needs

Protection and registration

  • Mobilization of refugee volunteer groups to assist affected families.

  • Community outreach by partners, refugee volunteers and refugee leaders such as Imams and members of community-based organizations on available support services to the affected and surrounding camps.

  • Family reunification for separated children.

  • Reconstruction of the destroyed UNHCR registration site and the issuance of new identity cards and family attestations.

  • Deploying protection teams to monitor response, ensure refugees’ safety and security and to identify needs and gaps related to access to services.

Public health

  • Provision of emergency health services, including through mobile medical teams providing emergency first aid.

  • Treatment of injured refugees at UNHCR health facilities.

  • Provision of mental health and psychosocial support to those affected by the fire, including separated children as well as frontline responders.

Water, sanitation and hygiene

  • Provision of aqua tabs to ensure any water collected and stored is safe to drink.

  • Operation of water tankers to deliver safe water to areas where displaced persons are congregating, ensuring provision of the minimum standard of 20 litres per person per day.

  • Construction of emergency latrines in affected areas as well as additional temporary latrines and bathing facilities as needed.

  • Construction of emergency tap stands in public places to provide clean and safe water.

Shelter and Core relief items

  • Provision of temporary emergency shelter support to displaced refugees.

  • Provision of core relief items, including tarpaulins, laundry and bathing soap, jerry cans, sanitary cloths, kitchen sets and stoves. As an initial response, UNHCR provided over 3,000 blankets, 20,000 solar lamps, 7,000 kitchen sets, 7,000 mosquito nets and 3,200 female hygiene kits in the IOM-managed camps affected by the fire.

Infrastructure and operations

  • Establishment of a solar power system for the health facility in the affected camp along with the provision of solar streetlights.

  • Operational and logistical support including deployment of personnel to assist with the response.