A Rohingya Muslim refugee sunbathes along with her child outside their shelter at Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.
A Rohingya Muslim refugee sunbathes along with her child outside their shelter at Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration has launched a project to exterminate insects that are attacking and damaging the bamboo structures sheltering hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Aid workers are racing against time to get the job done before the next monsoon season starts in four months-time. U.N. migration experts warn that almost every shelter in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar is at risk of collapsing because of an infestation of tiny insects.

These insects, called "boring beetles," eat the bamboo used to construct the shelters.  International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman says the homes of some 240,000 Rohingya families are at risk and need to be replaced with more durable bamboo.

"To help meet the challenge, IOM has launched a new treatment facility in the south of Cox's Bazar, which will be scaled up over coming weeks until it has the capacity to treat around 40,000 pieces of bamboo per month—sufficient to upgrade between 6,000 and 7,000 shelters," Millman said.

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over recently from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait to receive food being distributed near Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept. 19, 2017.
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Millman says this project will help ensure the refugees do not have to live with the constant threat of their shelters collapsing due to damaged bamboo.

Nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees are living in Cox's Bazar.  Most of them fled there at the end of August 2017 to escape violence and persecution in Myanmar.  To deal with this sudden mass exodus, a city constructed of bamboo and tarpaulins was rapidly built on the hills of a forested nature reserve.

The untreated bamboo used in the construction of the huts were attacked by insects, causing major damage.  IOM says Rohingya refugees working in a cash-for-work project are of invaluable help.  

It says many of the Rohingya were skilled in bamboo craftsmanship in Myanmar and are using these techniques to advance the operation.

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