Heavy flooding and landslides in the Rohingya refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, has left thousands of children and families in an increasingly dire situation with critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Tuesday, while scaling up relief efforts to those vulnerable children.
“Conditions in the camps and host community are deteriorating rapidly because of the brutal weather”, said Alain Balandi Domsam, acting UNICEF Bangladesh Representative, while stressing that “the humanitarian needs here are only likely to grow over the coming days with more downpours expected.”
According to UNICEF, vital infrastructure that children rely on such as learning centres and health facilities have been damaged or destroyed. To date, five UNICEF-supported centres have been heavily damaged, with over 750 partially damaged, interrupting the education of more than 60,000 children.
In addition, the risk from waterborne diseases is also growing. At least 47 water distribution points and networks, and over 600 latrines have been affected or damaged, increasing the risk of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD).
“Ensuring that children and families have access to safe water and sanitation is absolutely crucial to protecting them,” said Berta Travieso, Acting Chief of UNICEF Cox’s Bazar Field Office.
World Food Programme also scaling up
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is also scaling up assistance to those displaced in the Cox’s Bazar affected by devastating rains.
The agency has prepositioned 65 metric tons of high energy biscuits in refugee camps; emergency supplies for more than 160,000 people. As of 8 July, WFP has assisted 6,000 people with extra food assistance and is racing to stabilise slopes vulnerable to landslides.
"Considering the damage wrought by these heavy rains", said WFP Senior Spokesperson, Herve Verhoosel, "it is easy to imagine the devastation that thousands of Rohingya refugees may have faced if teams had not been on the ground completing these preparedness projects before the monsoon season arrived.
"Almost two years after the 2017 influx of Rohingya refugees", he added, "the situation remains critical. Vulnerability to food insecurity remains high and would rapidly deteriorate if humanitarian assistance were to cease or decrease".
More than 500,000 Rohingya children are in need of humanitarian assistance in Cox’s Bazar overall, and 80 percent of the refugees - who fled brutal violence and grave human rights abuses nearly 2 years ago, carried out by Myanmar security forces - are entirely dependent on WFP food assistance.
UNICEF has appealed for $152.5 million to support the work for refugee children and those affected in host communities in 2019. The current funding gap is US$68.7 million. It also costs WFP $24 million every month to feed those sheltering in what is the world’s largest refugee operation.