Emergency preparedness for the cyclone and monsoon season remains the priority, with a narrowing window for risk mitigation, including relocations, strengthening of shelters, and site improvements. In the last two weeks (10 – 23 April), 3,400 people at risk of landslides or floods have been relocated. Relocations of more than 20,000 people at risk of landslides or floods are planned in the coming weeks into 3,790 ready and available plots. More safe land is being prepared for more relocation. The Government of Bangladesh has completed 9 km of drainage out of 20 km planned; and is installing 5 pipe culverts and 2 box culverts are under construction along the Army Road, with an estimated completion date in May. Shelter upgrades are ongoing, with 117,153 households (65%) supported to date to strengthen their existing shelters. However, refugee sites remain dangerously congested and exposed to serious risks of floods and landslides.
The Honourable Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, Mofazzal Hossain Chohury, visited Cox’s Bazar this week and held rallies to create landslide awareness including in Ukhia, around the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site. The Minister met with humanitarian actors to discuss the status of emergency preparedness and response planning.
Mitigation measures need to continue ramping up. This includes decommissioning of facilities in at-risk locations. For example, 350 of 1,179 learning centres for refugees are in risk areas: to prevent loss of life, these must be removed. Strengthening of community shelters in safe areas to enable use as temporary shelter must happen concurrently, as well as rapid installation of critical services in new settlement areas.
For host communities, in the last two weeks, a total of 27,105 Bangladeshi households in Ukhia and Teknaf were supported with income generating activities, agricultural inputs and training, and micro-gardening. Also, in coordination with the Department of Public Health Engineering, 380 new tube-wells have been installed in villages in Ukhia and Teknaf.
The third round of diphtheria vaccination campaign was completed covering 431,448 (104%) children. Planning is underway for the oral AWD (acute watery diarrhea) vaccination campaign for the refugee population and at-risk host communities, which is planned for May 2018.
In the last two weeks, 2,240 new cases of severe acute malnutrition were identified and were admitted to in- and outpatient programs for therapeutic treatment (making the total number of cases 6,509).
The Joint Response Plan is underfunded, including notable gaps in Food Security and Health, and more funding is required for alternative fuel provision to curb deforestation.
Since 25 August 2017, extreme violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has driven an estimated 693,000 Rohingya refugees across the border into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Generations of statelessness imposed vulnerabilities on these people even before the severe traumas of this most recent crisis. The people and Government of Bangladesh welcomed them with resounding generosity and open borders. The speed and scale of the influx was nonetheless a challenge, and the humanitarian community stepped up its support to help mitigate a critical humanitarian emergency. The humanitarian response is also designed to mitigate impacts on the Bangladeshi communities most directly affected by the influx and improve their ability to cope with the strains of hosting nearly a million people.
Months later, refugees remain forced to rely upon humanitarian assistance for their basic needs. They live in congested sites that are ill-equipped to handle the early rains, monsoon and cyclone seasons. Many refugees have expressed anxiety about their future in light of media reports of discussions on returns, explaining that they would not agree to return until questions of citizenship, legal rights, access to services, justice and restitution are addressed.