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Thousands of Rohingya Refugees at Risk as Bangladesh Monsoons Approach

  • Lisa Schlein

Rohingya refugee Muslims who were staying in no-man's land at Bandarban between Myanmar and Bangladesh border carry their belongings to new locations after arriving at Balukhali refugee camp, 50 kilometers (32 miles) from, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Jan. 24, 2018.

The U.N. refugee agency says thousands of Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh face mudslides, floods, disease and other dangers from the upcoming monsoon season.

U.N. aid agencies are making emergency preparations to mitigate and avert the worst impacts from the upcoming monsoon season, which begins in March or April and lasts a few months.

More than 650,000 Rohingya refugees who escaped manmade violence and persecution in Myanmar now face daunting threats and challenges from a natural disaster. Most of the Rohingya are crowded into what is now the world's largest refugee settlement, an area composed of squalid, fragile shelters.

U.N. refugee agency spokesman Andrej Mahecic says at least 100,000 refugees could be in grave danger from landslides and floods. He says a recent assessment suggests up to one third of the settlement area could be flooded.

"As a result, more than 85,000 refugees could lose their shelters," he said. "Another 23,000 refugees living on steep slopes within the site could be at risk of landslides. In addition, key services in the settlement are also at risk of being washed away, including latrines, washrooms, tube wells, and health centers."

The UNHCR also warns of outbreaks of communicable diseases.The agency says it already has begun taking steps to protect the refugees from the heavy rains, such as providing them with better shelter kits and sandbags to help anchor the structures.

In the coming weeks, it says work will proceed to level some of the steep hills to reduce the risk of landslides. It says some families living in the most precarious parts of the camp will be moved to safer areas.

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