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IOM: Rohingya Refugees at Risk as Monsoons Near

FILE - Rohingya shacks are seen on the slope of a hill in a refugee camp in Balukhali, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Aid agencies are working to relocate refugees from such landslide-prone areas to safer flatlands. (S. Haiselden/VOA)

The International Organization for Migration says it does not have money to protect Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, from the impending regional monsoons and cyclonic storms.

Monsoon rains are expected to hit in the coming weeks, causing floods and landslides, and severe damage to the fragile structures sheltering more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled violence in neighboring Myanmar.

Humanitarian agencies have been working to shore up the overcrowded refugee settlements so they can withstand the worst of the coming winds and heavy rain.

However, IOM spokesman Joel Millman says his agency is worried that a funding shortage will prevent the necessary life-saving precautions to be taken. He says the IOM has received only 7 percent of its $180 million appeal.

"You can imagine how worried people must be on the ground," Millman said. "That said, they do everything they can every day and we make progress every day. We distributed a lot of equipment. We moved several thousand people to what we hope is safer ground, and we are preparing for the impact of rains on sanitation, which is the health risk."

When the cyclone and monsoon seasons hit in the coming weeks, Millman warns, the Rohingya, who are living under tarpaulins on highly unstable ground, will be forced to survive months of rains, floods and landslides.