Rohingya Refugee Camps Brace for Upcoming Monsoon

As Bangladesh’s annual wet season approaches, IOM is also working to secure infrastructure and boost resilience among Rohingya refugees and the local community. (Screen capture) © IOM

Cox’s Bazar  – The UN Migration Agency is providing search and rescue training; setting up emergency medical centres; establishing bases for work crews and light machinery; and upgrading shelters to mitigate disasters when the monsoon and cyclone season hits the world’s biggest refugee settlement in the coming weeks.

As Bangladesh’s annual wet season approaches, IOM is also working to secure infrastructure and boost resilience among Rohingya refugees and the local community. This includes the creation of disaster risk reduction safety committees to warn the refugees of what to expect and how to prepare for the wind and rain that are expected to bring deadly floods and landslides to the Cox’s Bazar camps.

Around 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar over the past six months. Most now live in tarpaulin shelters on bare, unstable slopes – ground which will quickly turn to mud when the rains arrive.

Studies prepared by IOM and its partners indicate that at least 100,000 refugees and vulnerable families in the local community face life-threatening risks from landslides and floods. Thousands more refugees are also at risk from disease and may be unable to get aid, if flooding cuts off access to parts of the settlement.

On March 1, IOM will take part in a one day emergency simulation to help develop rapid and coordinated responses to emergency situations. Other participants will include members of the independent,  multi-agency Inter Sector Coordination Group (ICSG), UNHCR, government authorities and local agencies.

“With emergency situations inevitable when the rains hit, it is crucial we work together now to limit disaster as much as possible before it occurs. We need to be able to respond swiftly and effectively during crisis events,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

“It is also vitally important to support members of the refugee and local communities with training and information in advance, so they are ready to respond and protect themselves and others when the worst conditions arrive,” he added.

Work to improve roads and drainage, stabilize slopes, protect against further erosion, and upgrade 120,000 shelters before the rains arrive is already underway.

But given the scale of the refugee population, the lack of suitable land, and the challenging  environmental conditions, it will be impossible to move everyone at risk. Rapid emergency response action will be vital to reduce loss of life.

To boost resilience in face of the dangerous conditions ahead, at least 650 people from the refugee and local communities are receiving search and rescue, and first aid training  from IOM, in conjunction with Bangladeshi Fire Service and Civil Protection Department. Those trained will act as community focal points in emergency situations, spreading early warning messages for weather events and assisting in first line emergency response.

With landslides and mud expected to cause road closures and blockages of major drains and waterways, it will be crucial to be able to clear these as quickly as possible.  Light machinery will be installed and work crews established at ten strategic points across the district as part of the Site Maintenance Engineering Project – a joint initiative between IOM, UNHCR and WFP.

Conditions in the camp and the work being done to mitigate the risks ahead of the monsoon season.

These crews and machines will be available to help humanitarian and government agencies to respond to disaster events – particularly in clearing debris from roads to keep vital access routes open.

Five specialist medical centres are also being established across the district to deal with outbreaks of acute diarrhoea, which are expected due to the impact of flooding on water and sanitation in the camps. This can often lead to fatalities, particularly among children.

Meanwhile IOM is working with the local authorities to support early warning systems for refugees and people in host communities. Communities are also being trained in how to shelter and secure potentially deadly flying debris in the event of cyclones and other severe weather conditions.

For more information please contact Fiona MacGregor at IOM Cox’s Bazar, Email:, Tel. +8801733335221