By Khaleda Akhter Laboni, BDRCS and Talha, Yasif, IFRC
Dill Mohammad, one of the 69,000 Muslims from Rakhine, arrived in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in the last quarter of 2016, due to an upsurge of violence in the northern part of Rakhine State in Myanmar.
“We never imagined that life can bring us such uncertainty,” says Mohammad. “It is a time to survive and such a struggle to overcome our situation.”
Population movement is not a new event in this area. For the past three decades, the affected communities have migrated to the coastal upazilas or sub districts of Teknaf and Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, where they live either as registered or unregistered refugees. 32,700 people are currently living in two official camps, Nayapara and Kutupalang. Apart from the registered refugees living in the official camps, there are between 300,000 to 500,000 others who have been living in makeshift camps or in host communities for the past 30 years.
With the new influx of displaced population arriving in Bangladesh, thousands of families like the Mohammads are being deprived of their basic needs. Without pre-planned measures to ensure good health and with poorly maintained latrines and tube wells, living in such vulnerable conditions could easily trigger the spread of diseases. The lack of food, safe drinking water, adequate shelter and clothing is exacerbating conditions, making life in the settlements a misery.
Most of the families end up queuing in both registered and unregistered camps in Cox’s Bazar with hopes of receiving support. The newly established makeshift shelters around the camps have little to no safe drinking water. The displaced communities were receiving only two pitchers of water each day prior to the influx. Now, there isn’t enough water to serve both camps.
In response to the situation, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has been operating mobile medical camps in Teknaf and Ukhiya since January 2017, providing health services, restoring family links and distributing non-food items.
“To date, the Red Crescent has served more than 2,000 patients, and we will continue to look after families like the Mohammads to ensure their wellbeing,” explains Dr. Hasan, the Bangladesh Red Crescent’s focal person for the Health Project in Cox’s Bazar.
The Red Crescent, working together with IOM and local authorities, distributed relief items received from the Malaysian Government via its ship, the Malaysian Flotilla, to over 13,800 families. “Over 12,000 of these families have been identified in the Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts during an assessment conducted by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Youth volunteers,” says Salim Ahmed, the Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation Coordinator at the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, Cox’s Bazar Unit. “An additional 12,200 bags of food and non-food items like blankets have also been distributed.”
Shahadat Himel, a Red Crescent Youth volunteer at the Cox’s bazar unit, explains that updating the database about new arrivals to the camp is a constant challenge. “Not only are they moving from place to place in search of food or shelter,” says Himel. “Every day, different people are arriving and seeking to be registered for support. We have to work hard to make sure that their needs are met and that they are registered.”
Earlier in the year, the Red Crescent distributed jerrycans and blankets among 2,000 families living in the camps, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) disaster relief emergency fund (DREF). As the scale of the disaster continues to grow, the IFRC will be launching an appeal to support the Bangladesh Red Crescent in delivering humanitarian assistance to the affected population.