Monsoon may worsen already precarious situation in Rohingya camps: UN, aid agencies

UN and other aid agencies are concerned that the monsoon will exacerbate an already precarious situation in the Rohingya camps where almost 860,000 refugees live in overcrowded conditions, many situated in hazardous terrain.

The monsoon, with heavy rains in the past few days, brings contamination of drinking water sources and raises increased risk of water-borne disease outbreaks in the camps and adjacent Bangladeshi communities, on top of the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.

“This year, the humanitarian community faces additional challenges in implementing monsoon preparedness activities, due to the Covid-19 outbreak in the camps,” said a statement of the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), a coordinating body of UN, NGOs and government supporting the Rohingya humanitarian assistance, yesterday.

It said reduced humanitarian presence in the camps and delivery of only critical, life-saving services as essential Covid-19 mitigation measures, has limited the ability to fully carry out key activities such as basic site development repairs.

Despite the challenges, it said the aid agencies and the government are scaling up critical disaster risk reduction, resilience building and monsoon preparedness and response, alongside Covid-19 response activities.

ISCG partners and some 3,000 Bangladeshi and Rohingya volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure monsoon preparedness and response.

“Humanitarian partners have stepped in to respond to the recent heavy rainfalls. Engineers and workers, all taking necessary Covid-19 precautionary measures, are in the camps and nearby host communities are repairing affected roads, culverts, and bridges, to ensure uninterrupted access of medical and other critical services for Rohingya and Bangladeshi families,” says ISCG Senior Coordinator, Nicole Epting.

Strengthening the structures are vital to reducing landslides and waterlogging in the camps and adjacent host communities, especially during prolonged periods of rain during the season, typically lasting from June to October, she said.

Additionally, Bangladeshi and Rohingya volunteers are now playing an increasingly critical role as first responders, the statement said.

ISCG says to prevent contamination of drinking water sources, the humanitarian community is reinforcing major water and sanitation infrastructures, disinfecting latrines, supplying soaps, and maintaining the largest human waste treatment plant ever built in a refugee camp.

UN agencies and NGOs have also strategically prepositioned stocks of emergency items including food, tarpaulins, ropes, floor mats, and water purification tablets, to ensure rapid access to support the most affected Rohingya refugees, and as required, host communities.

ISCG partners called on the international community to continue to support these efforts and the Rohingya refugee response, which is thus far 28 percent funded, especially during the challenging monsoon period.

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