Monsoon rain adding to Rohingya camp misery

Torrential rain is bringing swamp-like conditions to camp in Bangladesh, which is housing thousands of refugees fleeing the violence and terror in Myanmar 

18 September 2017, 10:11am
Rohingya refugees shelter from the rain in a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (Photo: VOA News)
Rohingya refugees shelter from the rain in a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (Photo: VOA News)
Heavy monsoon rain is flooding make-shift camps in Bangladesh, which are housing thousands of Muslim Rohingya, amid the already miserable conditions.

In addition to water and food storages, torrential rain is bringing back swamp-like conditions to parts of the border town of Cox’s Bazar.

In the last 24 hours alone, almost 8cm of rain fell and more is predicted to follow in the next two days, the Bangladesh weather department claimed.

Bangladesh authorities, who have already issued travel restrictions on the Rohingya, launched an operation on Saturday to move tens of thousands of people out of roadside camps and hillside shanties into a giant new camp.

The UN says 409,000 Rohingya have arrived in Cox’s Bazar since 25 August, when the military in Buddhist-majority Maynmar launched operations in the Rakhine state.

As existing camps are already full with 300,000 Rohingya having fled earlier violence, many of the new arrivals have been forced to live in the open air or under structures made from plastic sheeting.

“We are shifting them from the roadsides where many of them have been staying,” Khaled Mahmud, a government spokesman, said. Mahud added that gradually, all recent Rohingya arrivals would be taken to Balukhali, to bring order to the chaotic aid operation.

On Sunday, Myanmar’s government hinted that it may not take back Rohingya who fled across the border, accusing those refugees of having links to the militants.

“Those who fled the villages made their way to the other country for fear of being arrested as they got involved in the violent attacks. Legal protection will be given to the villages whose residents did not flee,” the government’s Information Committee statement said.

Previous statements have said that the country will set up relief shelters in northern Rakhine for Muslims “who can guarantee they are in no way connected to the terrorists”.

On Saturday, Bangladesh police issued tough new orders banning the Rohingya from moving out of designated areas. The order even prevented them from taking shelter with friends and relatives.

Checkpoints have been set up at key transit points.

With thousands more Rohingya arriving each day, the UN is already warning of intolerable conditions in the camps around Cox’s Bazar.

The rain “has doubled their misery”, said Mohammed Kai-Kislu, police chief at Ukhia, near Cox’s Bazar.

A human rights expert in Cox’s Bazar urged the government to shut local schools for three days to allow the Rohingya to camp in them. “It is another disaster unfolding. Thousands of Rohingya had no place to hide when the rain came,” said Nur Khan Liton, who headed Bangladeshi rights group Ain O Salish Kendra.