Dhaka, Bangladesh (Associated Press)-Days of heavy rains hit the Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, destroying houses and forcing thousands of people to live with extended families or public shelters.
The UN Refugee Agency said that in the 24 hours as of Wednesday alone, more than 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) of rain fell on the camps in the Cox’s Bazar area that housed more than 800,000 Rohingya. This is almost half of the average day’s rainfall in July, and more downpours are expected in the coming days, and the monsoon season will continue in the next three months.
“The situation has further deteriorated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the country’s rising number of cases, a strict nationwide lockdown is currently being implemented,” the agency said.
The agency said that six people died in the refugee camp earlier this week, five of them died from landslides caused by rain, and one child was swept away by floods.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees quoted a preliminary report that more than 12,000 refugees were affected by heavy rainfall, while an estimated 2,500 shelters were damaged or destroyed. The agency said in a statement that more than 5,000 refugees have been temporarily transferred to shelters or public facilities for other family members.
The refugees said they are trying to eat normally.
“Due to the continuous rain for the past four days, my house is full of water today,” said Khatija Begum, who has five children. “We can’t even eat food.” Begum said she was worried that her child would drown in his sleep.
Hurricanes, monsoon rains, floods, landslides and other natural disasters are difficulties that refugee camps encounter every year. Since August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya have lived in refugee camps in Bangladesh, when the Buddhist-majority Burmese army began to severely suppress the Muslim community after the insurgents attacked.
The crackdown included rape, killing and burning of thousands of houses, and was called ethnic cleansing by global human rights organizations and the United Nations. Although Bangladesh and Myanmar have sought to arrange repatriation, the Rohingya are afraid of returning home.
According to the International Organization for Migration, Cox’s Bazar, where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees live, is one of the most disaster-prone areas in Bangladesh.
This is a delta country with many rivers criss-crossed. Due to its monsoon climate and the location of the Bay of Bengal, there are often heavy rains and warm waters can produce destructive tropical cyclones.