DHAKA, Bangladesh – Days of heavy rain have hit Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, destroying homes and sending thousands to live with extended families or collective shelters.
In the 24 hours leading up to Wednesday afternoon, more than 11.8 inches of rain fell in camps in Cox’s Bazar district which are home to more than 800,000 Rohingya, the UN refugee agency said. . That’s almost half the average July rainfall in a day, and heavier showers are expected in the coming days and the monsoon season spans the next three months.
“The situation is further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. There is currently a strict national lockdown in response to the increase in cases across the country, ”the agency said.
He said six people died in the camps earlier this week – five in a landslide caused by the rains and a child swept away by flood waters.
Citing initial reports, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 12,000 refugees were affected by the heavy rains and around 2,500 shelters were damaged or destroyed. More than 5,000 refugees have been temporarily relocated to shelters or communal facilities for other family members, the agency said in a statement.
Download the NBC News app for the latest news and politicss
Hannah Macdonald, a spokesperson for UNHCR, said in an email that emergency response teams have been deployed to help affected families.
The refugees said they found it difficult to eat and drink properly.
“Due to the continuous rains of the past four days, my house is now full of water,” said Khatija Begum, who has five children. “We can’t even eat. Begum said she feared her children would drown and die in their sleep.
The refugee agency said bad weather, landslides and flooding have further exacerbated the suffering and humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Cyclones, heavy monsoon rains, floods, landslides and other natural hazards are an annual difficulty in the camps. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist army began a harsh crackdown on the Muslim ethnic group following an insurgent attack.
The crackdown included rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes, and has been labeled ethnic cleansing by global rights groups and the United Nations. As Bangladesh and Myanmar have sought to organize repatriations, the Rohingya are too afraid to return home.
The International Organization for Migration says Cox’s Bazar district, home to more than one million Rohingya refugees, is one of the most disaster-prone areas in Bangladesh.
It is a river-crisscrossed delta nation that regularly receives intense rainfall due to its monsoon climate and location on the Bay of Bengal, where warm waters can generate destructive tropical cyclones.