World Vision delivers aid to Rohingya refugees in monsoon mud, rain
Cox’s Bazar (9 July 2019)—In the midst of monsoon rain, flooding, mud and landslides, World Vision is delivering life-sustaining aid to hundreds of thousands of children and their families living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh.
For the past week, monsoon rains deluged this coastal district that is home to a megacity of 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Up to 2,500 mm of rain falls here on average annually from June to September. Meteorologists forecast torrential rain over the next five days that will likely trigger more landslides and flooding in the camps. Refugees living in makeshift shelters perched on crumbling hillsides face increasing risks of their homes collapsing.
“Maybe we can’t outsmart Mother Nature, but we can plan around her,” says Rachel Wolff, Response Director of World Vision’s humanitarian work in Cox’s Bazar. “We’ve been gearing up for the monsoon season for six months. Now it’s testing time.”
Wolff says her agency hired 15,000 refugee men and women last November to help reduce the risk of disaster by reinforcing the camps’ infrastructure. They built a dozen bridges, brick-paved kilometres of road by hand and shored up landslide-prone slopes across the sprawling camps. Their efforts paid off. Despite hazardous weather conditions, World Vision and other NGOs have been able to access the camps to deliver food aid to the refugees and other much-needed services.
“Many roads in the camps are waterlogged and axle-deep in mud, but we’re getting through and getting the job done,” says Wolff. World Vision continues to provide supplementary food to 800 children daily to help prevent and treat malnutrition. The doors of our food assistance shops remain open, where 2,000 refugees come each day to exchange vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables. Despite structural water damage, the agency’s 42 community kitchens are operating. Up to 1,050 mothers count on the kitchens’ gas stoves to cook for their families every morning. Children are especially vulnerable during the monsoons. “Keeping children safe is our top priority,” says Wolff. World Vision staff trained thousands of parents on how to protect their families during extreme weather alerts and what to do if children are lost or separated during a storm. Eleven World Vision child-friendly spaces will double as community meeting points. In preparation for worsening weather, World Vision has stockpiled supplies to distribute, including 5,000 kits containing water purification tablets, soap, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products.
• World Vision has served more than 265,000 refugees, delivering life-saving assistance through programmes in child protection, education, nutrition, food security, gender-based violence prevention, and access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.