refugee crisis

Monsoon may bring a flood of troubles for the Rohingyas in Bangladesh’s refugee camps

Thousands of refugees living on the hill slopes in Cox’s Bazaar are especially vulnerable.

Some 25,000 Rohingyas living in the camps built on the steep slopes of hills in Cox’s Bazar are in grave danger of mudslides during the coming monsoon.

Abdullah, who hailed from Buthidaung Township’s Kinisi village in Rakhine, built a shed at a steep slope in Balukhali area after fleeing Myanmar on September 19, 2017. Talking about his life in Bangladesh, he said: “When we came here [Cox’s Bazar], it was late autumn and the hills were quite inhabitable. “Now, we are in fear because of the monsoon, as the hilly areas become very dangerous for living during the rainy season due to the soft, unstable and slippery ground.”

The Rohingya refugee added: “We have heard about the measures taken by Bangladesh government and aid agencies regarding our relocation but no one has come to us yet. I am just worried for my six children, wife and my parents and feeling afraid thinking about the upcoming possible curse of the nature [monsoon].”

Apart from the refugees living on the slopes, about 175,000 Rohingyas living in the camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas would also face hardships in monsoon, a study by the government’s Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission said.

If these refugees are not relocated to a safe zone soon, many will fall victim to the coming inclement weather. According to the Disaster Management and Relief Ministry’s Rohingya Cell, nearly 700,000 displaced Rohingyas entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, joining about 400,000 others who were already living in squalid, cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar. However, the Rohingya influx still continues.

Recently, some experts from Dhaka University, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and International Organisation for Migration carried out an assessment at the camps and found that up to one-third of the settlement areas could be flooded during the rainy seasons.

Shamsud Douza, additional commissioner at Cox’s Bazar-based Office of Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Primarily, we are assuming that about 200,000 (including the ones living on slopes) people in the camps are at risk of mudslide and flood.”

Experts say mudslides will have a range of impacts like casualties and will also disrupt the aid distribution process, which majority of refugees depend on.

They said if the latrines, washrooms, and tube wells get flooded then it would lead to water contamination and cholera, worsening the living conditions in the camps.

Flooding increases the risk of disease outbreaks and could also threaten access to medical facilities also.

Andrew Kruczkiewicz, a climate researcher at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The arrival of Rohingya has led to changes in land cover [deforestation and hill cutting] and its use [some farmers renting their agricultural land for people to build shelters]. These changes have impacts on the hydrology of the area, the type of hazards and the magnitude of risks.”

Raining calamities

Monitoring the impact in and around the camps during the pre-monsoon or cyclone season and monsoon season is important as to learn how risk has changed compared to the previous years. The experts suggest that the key stakeholders are needed to be included in the discussions to understand the complexity in which the Rohingyas and the host people are currently involved in.

Andrew said: “We are leveraging Nasa-funded project to explore the establishment of a global collaborative effort, whereby local and regional actors can collaborate with Nasa and other global research organisations to explore how to think about frameworks for short term and medium term disaster risk reduction.”

He said: “In other words, host communities could be at risk to new types of floods, such as flash floods, because of the changes in their environment, and they may not be aware of it. “Partners are working together to include those smaller camps and host communities in the risk assessments.”

Sexagenarian Latif Ahmad, who is living in Kutupalang Rohingya camp, said he was worried as the polythene-made tents lack the ability to face any natural calamity. The refugee from Maungdaw said: “After last year’s violence, we were sheltered in camps in Cox’s Bazar. In Burma [Myanmar], the army ruined us and here, we faced the curse of the weather like sudden rain and cold wave in January. Now, the monsoon is scaring us.”

The aid agencies fear that elderly and disabled people, infants and children, people suffering from malnutrition, pregnant women will mostly be affected in the season.

Saleha Begum of Maungdaw’s Hatipara said: “It was a forest when I first arrived here . I want to move from here [hills] before the monsoon. I do not know what I will do during the rains. It depends on Allah.”

Preparation for the monsoon

The government said the risky areas have been already marked with red flags and the members of Fire Brigade and Civil Defence, and Disaster Management and Relief Ministry have been campaigning to create awareness among the Rohingyas.

The government held a meeting with the aid organisations and the stakeholders regarding the matter on March 4. The decision to move the Rohingyas to a safer place by April 15 was taken in the meeting presided over by Disaster Management and Relief Ministry’s Secretary Md Shah Kamal. At the meeting, the speakers also pointed out that the safe places in the existing camps can only accommodate about 40,000 to 45,000 Rohingyas, so the government is thinking of moving the other vulnerable refugees to Bhashan Char by June.

The Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission said the vulnerable Rohingyas are being moved to camp number 17 and 18, where 5,035 refugees belonging to 1,188 families would be sheltered by April 15.

Besides, the most vulnerable people are being re-sheltered at safer locations in their present camps.

Apart from that, 100,000 Rohingyas will be sent to Bhashan Char and Bangladesh Navy has already started building houses and cyclone shelters for them following a specific model.

Another 540 acres of forest land, which lies in the north-west of the existing Kutupalong expansion camp in Ukhiya and Teknaf, was allocated for the relocation of Rohingyas at risk of natural calamity.

Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said: “The risk-prone Rohingya camps will be evicted and the Rohingyas will be relocated in the newly allocated lands. We have identified the vulnerable Rohingyas who would be directly subject to mudslide, cyclone, and tidal waves in the coming monsoon. RRRC [Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission] and aid agencies are working for the relocation. The aid organisations have already started levelling the hilly grounds of the newly allocated land.”

Andrew Kruczkiewicz said: “Overall, we were impressed with the coordination between IOM [International Organisation for Migration] and UNHCR and the other organisations. We understand that this is an ongoing situation with several unprecedented factors. Understanding how climate and weather information is used to support decision making was something that we see can be enhanced.”

Regarding core principles of the International Research Institute, he said: “I suggest you reach out to the protection working group of the Inter Sector Coordination Group, who recently organised training on key protection principles for facilitators in safety units. Training materials included general guiding principles, best practices, PSEA and technical knowledge on both Child Protection and Gender Based Violence victims. Following the Training of Trainers, relevant training sessions will be carried out by the trained facilitators at the field level in all camps for community volunteers.”

This article first appeared on the Dhaka Tribune.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.