During the week of 27 July, the monsoon intensified, and Cox’s Bazar District experienced persistent rains and strong winds resulting in floods and landslides causing the death of eight refugees and 15 Bangladeshis in the host community areas. Almost 25,000 refugees were displaced within the camps. UNHCR’s emergency response was activated immediately and is ongoing.
In 2021, lockdown measures have been in place across the country including the Rohingya refugee camps since the beginning of April following increasing rates of COVID-19 countrywide. From 1 – 14 July a stricter lockdown was enforced. On 15 July the lockdown was lifted over the Eid holidays and then reinstated on 23 July. We continue to advocate with the Government to ensure continued humanitarian access to all areas in the camps and host communities, to ensure provision of vital protection and assistance services.
Bangladesh continued to see a significant increase in COVID-19 positive cases in July. As of 31 July, 2,451 COVID-19 cases, and 27 COVID-19 deaths were confirmed in the camps. Worryingly, more than 1,800 of these cases were recorded since May 2021, representing over 70 percent of total cases reported since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The humanitarian community is extremely grateful to the Government of Bangladesh for the inclusion of the Rohingya refugees in the COVID-19 national vaccination plan. The vaccination of Rohingya refugees will start on 10 August and will initially include refugees over 55 years of age. Altogether, it is planned that over 48,000 of the nearly 900,000 refugees will be vaccinated in the first cohort. Preparations for the roll out of the vaccination campaign are in advanced stages.
Continuing lockdown measures have reduced the humanitarian footprint, and restricted activities in both the camps and surrounding host communities. Only health and other life-saving activities and distribution of core relief items and cooking fuel are allowed to be carried out; following advocacy by the international community, disaster risk response is also permitted. However, protection, including registration, gender-based violence prevention and response, child protection, and site management activities are not considered “critical” under the directive shared by the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) on 28 April. This has created gaps in in-person services such as mediation, legal counselling, community consultations, and case management which are normally conducted by trained protection actors. Vulnerable refugees including women, children, older persons and people living with disabilities particularly depend on these assistances, and protection interventions are often lifesaving for them. Currently these services are conducted remotely or with support of trained refugee volunteers. UNHCR continues to advocate for the inclusion of protection and site management as critical activities. Refugee and host community volunteers continue to play significant roles in the humanitarian response while access to the camps remains limited.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, Cox’s Bazar District experienced heavy monsoon rains and strong winds during the week of 27 July. The weather events resulted in the death of eight refugees and 15 Bangladeshis in the host community areas, as confirmed by government officials. 518 villages in Cox’s Bazar District are affected, while almost 25,000 refugees were displaced within the camps. A detailed report about UNHCR’s initial response to flooding and landslides can be found here.
Even with coordinated efforts to prepare the camps and refugees in advance of monsoon season throughout the year, this monsoon season had affected over 117,000 refugees due to soil erosion and flooding, wind and storms.