Cox’s Bazar, near the southern tip of Bangladesh, is home to the largest Rohingya refugee camp, which houses nearly 671,000 Rohingya Muslims.
Bangladesh had opened its borders to the Rohingyas in August 2017, when the refugees started pouring in, after escaping the massacres and persecution by the Myanmar military. They overcame severe difficulties for the safety of their loved ones. The Bangladeshi government let them settle around an area where there was already a relatively small Rohingya refugee camp.
But, now the Kutupalong-Balukhali settlements of Rohingya refugees, faces an imminent calamity come April when the first storms of the monsoon season hit. Cyclones, which usually transpire around March to July, would worsen the situation beyond the dangers of flooding and landslides.
Within weeks, when the refugees had poured in by the tens of thousands, trees were hacked away for shelter and firewood, leaving nothing to hold the parched soil together as rainwater washes downhill. Southeastern Bangladesh is known for extreme rain, with 12 feet of rain on average every year!
Such a monsoon could potentially take tents and people with it and quickly submerge low-lying settlements. According to the United Nations, about 100,000 refugees are at acute risk from landslides and floods. The waste management systems are likely to overflow during rains, increasing the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases. These are the tremendous risks to health and more importantly, the life of the Rohingya refugees.
The Bangladesh and United Nations officials are preparing land elsewhere to relocate the 100,000 refugees from the mega camp. The United Nations may also level a hilly area allocated by the government. The officials are distributing more tarp, bamboo, and sandbags to refugees to shore up their tents before the rains.
While the plight of the Rohingya refugees has gone out of the news cycles and unnoticed, their struggles seem far from over. These refugees were unceremoniously thrown out, not only from their houses but their country. They have crossed rivers, slept under the open sky, faced unspeakable trauma and persecutions, and were turned away by neighboring countries in the name of security.
These refugees deserve our help and prayers in their continuing despair and predicaments.
Snigdha is a 'closet' writer with unapologetic opinions on life and people around her. She supports the cause of protecting endangered civil rights like free speech, equity, equality, and most importantly common sense.