Two Months on from Outbreak of Violence, Number of Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Reaches 817,000

Rohingya refugee children collect water at an IOM-built well in Kutupalong Makeshift Settlement, Bangladesh. Photo: Olivia Headon/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Niños acarreando agua en un pozo construido por la OIM en el asentamiento para refugiados rohingyas en Kutupalong, Bangladesh. Foto:OIM/Olivia Headon, 2017.

Children collect water at an IOM-built well in Kutupalong Rohingya Refugee Settlement, Bangladesh. Photo: Olivia Headon / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

A woman collects water at an IOM-built well in Kutupalong Makeshift Settlement, Bangladesh. Photo: Olivia Headon / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

A woman collects water at an IOM-built well in Kutupalong Rohingya Refugee Settlement, Bangladesh. Photo: Olivia Headon / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Cox’s Bazar – A total of 817,000 Rohingya refugees are now living in the southern most district of Bangladesh. Since 25 August, some 604,000 people have crossed the border, having fled violence in Myanmar. This is in addition to the over 200,000 people who had sought safety in Cox’s Bazar following previous outbreaks of violence. The majority of new arrivals live in crowded makeshift settlements, with only 46,000 people living among the host community.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has been meeting with male and female community leaders in the rapidly growing Kutupalong refugee settlement to assess how best to address residents’ needs and ensure that they know where they can provide feedback and complaints, and who they can come to if they need to report gender-based violence.

Following this meeting, the communities in Kutupalong are now more engaged in the tracking of new arrivals to the settlement. Community meetings will now be held regularly.

IOM and REACH, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working to facilitate the development of information tools and products that enhance the humanitarian community’s decision-making and planning capacity, are mapping community leadership in all sites to enable communities to have more of a say and decision-making power in the humanitarian response in their settlements.

Rohingya refugees arrive with little or no possessions and no means of building a shelter to live in and protect themselves from weather stresses. IOM and partners have been working for over two months to ensure that these immediate needs are met. IOM has distributed over 80,000 kits that provided nearly 395,000 families with the necessities to build their own shelter, giving them a place to sleep and stay out of the hot sun and, at times, torrential rains.

With so many people having settled in such a small area, site planning and management is vital for the protection of Rohingya refugees. IOM is working with partners and the Government of Bangladesh to ensure access to displacement sites, all of which developed on hilly terrain, which is extremely difficult to reach with services.

More focus must be given on building roads and basic infrastructure such as drains and stairways to make sure that the refugee population can receive services as quickly and effectively as possible. For example, 741,000 litres of water have been trucked into the settlements with limited access to water, especially in locations where this often has to be hand-carried up steep hills to bring it close to the elderly and children, who might not otherwise get access to it.

Medical needs in the camps are extremely high, especially considering that many of the refugees would have walked long distances to reach Bangladesh, with many having experienced physical and sexual abuse along the way and are now living in over-crowded sites that were not prepared for inhabitation by more than 800,000 people. IOM health teams have provided emergency and primary healthcare services to 53,000 patients. The team has also set up child delivery facilities and a patient stabilization unit in Kutupalong.

To address sanitation needs and prevent disease outbreaks, IOM has constructed 660 emergency pit latrines and 100 mobile toilets. Twelve deep tube wells have been completed to provide settlement residents with clean drinking water.

Meeting urgent protection needs is crucial to the wellbeing and safety of the most vulnerable Rohingya refugees. Women and children remain most at risk and require specialist care and attention. IOM is responding and working to prevent to gender-based violence and human trafficking.

The includes the construction of safe spaces, which are centres in Leda, Balukali, Kutupalong, and Shamlapur settlements, where women can meet, rather than staying alone in a tiny shelter all day. IOM has also provided over 2,000 people with psychological first aid.

The protection team has referred 1,000 people to health services for specialist care services. Over 2,100 dignity kits, which includes underwear, menstrual hygiene products, soap, toothbrushes and other small items intended to help restore women's dignity and increase their mobility during crisis situations, and 3,000 solar lanterns have been distributed to vulnerable women.

For more information, please contact Olivia Headon at Cox's Bazar, Tel: +8801733335221, Email: