They joined previous influxes of Rohingya who fled the country in the 70s and 90s. Today, nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees live in Bangladesh, most of them in Cox's Bazar district, near the border with Myanmar. The strain on the local host community and its already stretched facilities and services has been immense.
Bangladesh hosts the largest refugee settlement in the world.
Most Rohingya refugees are living in 33 camps in Cox’s Bazar, which together make up the world’s largest refugee settlement. More than six years on from the latest influx from Myanmar, this is also one of the world's largest protracted refugee situations.
Since 2017, the humanitarian community has closely collaborated with the Government of Bangladesh to respond to the humanitarian repercussions of this massive displacement. Despite these efforts, living conditions in the densely populated camps are dire, particularly for women and children who are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and human trafficking. Ensuring a safe environment for refugees, including by protecting them from natural hazards, fire, and environmental degradation, remains a challenge. Between June and October, the monsoon season brings intense rainfall and strong winds, elevating the risk of floods and landslides for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in fragile shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin.
During the rainy season, refugees living in overcrowded camps and lacking proper water and sanitation facilities are also at heightened risk from water-borne diseases such as hepatitis, acute diarrhoea and dengue.
Climate change means it’s too hot during the summer and too rainy during the monsoon,” says Samia. “I’ve seen with my own eyes shelters being broken by landslides and people being injured.
What is UNHCR doing to help?
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners are actively supporting the Government's efforts to address the humanitarian and protection needs of Rohingya refugees. Entirely dependent on humanitarian aid, they require assistance with food, water, shelter, education and health. As Bangladesh faces climate change and natural disaster risks, UNHCR is emphasizing the necessity for disaster-resilient and environmentally conscious programming. To mitigate potential tensions between refugees and hosts, the organization is also addressing challenges impacting host communities, including environmental degradation and lack of health services.
Given the protracted nature of the crisis, maintaining donor attention and funding has become increasingly challenging. As a result, humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR, are having to prioritize critical interventions, leaving some basic needs unmet. This situation is particularly detrimental to women and children, who constitute over 75 per cent of the refugee population and are more vulnerable to abuse and gender-based violence. The international community's support is crucial to ensure life-sustaining assistance for Rohingya refugees.
Life in the world’s largest refugee settlement
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