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IOM Creates Emergency Safe Havens for Bangladesh’s Rohingya Refugees

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The block M24 (Camp 20) mosque is one of the community structures upgraded by IOM, with funding from ECHO, to provide temporary shelter for Rohingya refugees during emergencies. © IOM

Cox’s Bazar – Dozens of community buildings in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps have been upgraded by shelter teams from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, to provide temporary accommodation for refugees in emergency situations.

Seventy buildings have now been completed under the first phase of the project, supported by the European Union (EU), offering temporary shelter space for over 4,500 people.

The upgraded structures will allow IOM shelter and site management teams to provide better protection for refugees if they are affected by landslides, floods, bad weather or other unexpected events that force them to leave their own shelters.

Mohammed Nur, 36, a maji or community representative, said: “If weather conditions turn bad and storms destroy our shelters, people from our area will be able to stay here safely for a few days. It is a relief for all of us.”

In a second phase of community shelter upgrade work, to be funded by the United Kingdom, a further 100 buildings will undergo improvements. Once completed, the 170 strengthened structures will be able to accommodate 10,000 people with urgent shelter needs.

The facilities will also serve as a temporary accommodation for families whose shelters need to be repaired or completely re-built in the coming months, as the dry season offers a window of opportunity to tackle damage inflicted during the monsoon season.

“IOM and partners have provided over 100,000 households with materials to help them upgrade their own shelters. But weather and environmental conditions in the camps mean tens of thousands of families live with the knowledge that their shelters could be damaged or destroyed at any time,” said Manuel Pereira, IOM’s Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

“Ensuring we have secure and stable buildings in which people can safely take shelter if disaster strikes is hugely important under such circumstances. This project means that even though people are living in very uncertain conditions, if the worst happens, we are still able to offer them a safe haven.”

The EU funding was provided by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) under a consortium project implemented by IOM, the German Red Cross, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The Disaster Risk Reduction consortium was established to mitigate against disasters among refugee and local communities affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Almost a million Rohingya are currently living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after escaping violence in Myanmar, which surged in late August 2017 sending over 500,000 people fleeing across the border in just a few weeks. The region is prone to some of the worst monsoon conditions on earth and undergoes two cyclone seasons each year.

Most Rohingya live in what has become the largest refugee settlement in the world – a desperately overcrowded environment on ground prone to landslides and flooding. People living in local villages, where infrastructure has been severely overstretched since the arrival of so many people in a very short period, also face ongoing risk of environmental and other disasters.

For more information please contact Fiona MacGregor at IOM Cox’s Bazar. Email:, Tel: +88 0 1733 33522