‘100,000 in grave danger from monsoon rains’

A United Nations report
says there could be a
disaster in Bangladesh
PROBLEMS AHEAD: A United Nations report says there could be a disaster in Bangladesh


MORE than 100,000 Rohingya refu­gees huddled in squalid, muddy camps in Bangladesh will be in grave danger from landslides when the mid-year monsoon season begins, a U.N. humanitarian report said on Monday (29).  

There are now more than 900,000 Rohingyas in the Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh, after 688,000 fled vio­lence in Myanmar that flared up in late August. Aid workers say the camps sheltering the new arrivals are com­pletely inadequate.  

“Landslide and flood risk hazard mapping reveal that at least 100,000 people are in grave danger from these risks and require relocation to new ar­eas or within the neighborhoods that they live in,” the UN report said. “The lack of space remains the main chal­lenge for the sector as sites are highly congested leading to extremely hard living conditions with no space for service provisions and facilities.  

“In addition, congestion brings in­creased protections risks and favors disease outbreak such as the diphthe­ria outbreak currently escalating in most of the sites.”  

Although a rapid vaccination pro­gramme appears to have staved off the risk of cholera, 4,865 have confirmed, probable or suspected diphtheria, and 35 have died.  

The World Health Organisation has vaccinated over 500,000 Rohingyas against diphtheria and last Saturday (27) health workers began giving 350,000 children a second dose. The WHO also has 2,500 doses of anti-tox­in, which is in short supply globally, to treat the deadly effects of the disease.  

But a new health concern has arisen – mumps. The UN report said that there had been an increase in cases in the past few weeks, and Rohingya ref­ugees and host communities had nev­er been vaccinated against the highly contagious disease, which is rarely fa­tal but can cause complications such as meningitis.  

Most of the Rohingya refugees – al­most 585,000 – are in an overcrowded area called Kutupalong-Balukhali.  

“A high percentage of the land is unsuitable for human settlement as risks of flooding and landslides are high and are further aggravated by the congestion and extensive terracing of the hills,” the UN report said.  

“The anticipated flooding and land­slides in the upcoming monsoon season will make a bad situation much worse.”  

A recent engineering assessment said all roads in the camp would be inaccessible for trucks, and the World Food Programme is considering using porters to distribute food, minutes of a January 24 meeting of aid agencies in­volved in logistics said.  

The Bangladeshi government allo­cated 2,000 acres (809 hectares) for a new camp in Ukhia, prompting an in­flux of people before anything was ready.