February 13, 2022

The Plight of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar

Usamah Ali

As of 31 July 2019, UNHCR records that over 742,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to refugee camp sites in Bangladesh since 25 August 2017.

  • Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is currently the largest refugee camp in the world.
  • Rohingya Refugees are in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.

Who are the Rohingya Refugees?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the Rohingya as, “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world.”

Rohingya Muslims are one of the many ethnic minorities in Myanmar. However, in 2017, there was an extreme government crackdown and Rohingya Muslims were forced to leave Myanmar to protect themselves from violence. The vast majority fled to Bangladesh, where they now live in tightly packed refugee camps. 

Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance

As the emergency and current pandemic extend in duration, Rohingya refugees are overstretching already-limited services and scarce resources. According to the UNHCR;

  • Population – approximately 671,000 Refugees settled in Cox’s Bazar district since 2017
  • Shelter – More than 50,000 shelters have been structured using materials including bamboo, rope, and tarpaulins. 75% of families share households/shelters
  • Congestion – 93% of refugees live below UNHCR’s emergency standard of 45 square meters per person
  • Natural Disaster Risks – Tropical monsoon climate weathers Cox’s Bazar. The area is prone to natural disasters seasonally as climates change between dry season from November to March and rainy seasons from April to October (72% of the yearly rainfall between June and September).  Cox’s Bazar is also exposed to cyclones.
  • Landslides – over 23,000 people are at risk of serious landslides
  • Floods – over 400 hectares of flood-prone areas in Bangladesh; floods affecting nearly 80,000 people
  • Public Health Services – there are 149 clinics and 20 vaccination centers in Bangladesh Rohingya Refugee sites.  Morbidity and diseases are increasing as pandemic escalates; high level of respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases: notably cholera, hepatitis E and measles.
  • Nutrition & Food Security – acute malnutrition and anemia sufferance is prevalent among children 6-59 months, exceeding the emergency threshold.
  • Water & Sanitation – Longer-term and sustainable sanitation solutions are needed; there are 7,275 hand pumps in the refugee camp sites
    • 80% functional hand pumps
    • 99% of refugee populations live within 200 meters of the functioning hand pumps
    • 3,275 of the hand pumps are in landslide or flood prone refugee camp sites
    • 42% of water samples were contaminated with Escherichia coli (Dec 2017).

UMR Interventions

UMR, in coordination with partners, works to provide ambulatory medical care to Rohingya refugees seeking safety in Cox’s Bazar. We are one of the very few medical teams authorized by the Bangladeshi government, which allows us to treat young children who would otherwise suffer from easily preventable diseases, such as the flu, which are lethal in camp settings. We coordinate with Bangladeshi NGOs for medical staff and logistics support to gain access to the internal parts of the camp. This project is coordinated in conjunction with UN health cluster meetings and volunteers physicians contracted through IMANA.

This project has been running since 2017 and has served hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Refugees.

With the onset of COVID-19, experts are predicting that:

This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.

Families live with up to 10 people in one room in sweltering heat, making social distancing impossible. 

With numbers upward of 19,000 confirmed cases of the virus in Bangladesh, it is only a matter of time before it spreads throughout the entire camp. 

Click to Read More:

[1] UNHCR – Rohingya Emergency 2020

[2] UNHCR  – Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance

[3] HRW – “Bangladesh is Not My Country” – 2018

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About the Author
Usamah Ali

Usamah Ali

Usamah Ali

Usamah Ali

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