Preview / Inside Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps

By: Tom O'Connell, Johan Smits - Photography by: Johan Smits - Posted on: June 12, 2018 | Myanmar

Before the storms hit, Southeast Asia Globe toured a camp and spoke with refugees about how they are preparing for potential disaster – and how they’ve been recruited by the UN to help other refugees weather the storm

Kaida with another volunteer on their way to visit a refugee family Photo: Johan Smits

The monsoon rains have touched down in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees from neighbouring Myanmar are living in already disastrous conditions. The storms that hit the camps on Sunday night are making their plight much worse, with one young child dead and hundreds of temporary shelters swept away.

For the July issue of Southeast Asia Globe, freelance reporter Johan Smits travelled to a camp near the seaside town of Cox’s Bazar, to report on the preparations being made in anticipation of the now-descending monsoons. There, he spoke with community outreach members who had escaped anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar to find themselves now helping others at the camp.

Recruited and trained by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, these community outreach members go shelter to shelter disseminating information on hygiene and vaccinations, medical treatment and education facilities, and accompanying the sick, the elderly and children to service points. They also play a key part in helping their fellow refugees prepare for the much-feared monsoon season by distributing life-saving practical advice about flooding using pictures showing the risks of landslides.

“After coming to Bangladesh, they didn’t receive any kind of [instruction] about our country’s geographic condition and the natural hazards every year during the monsoon period,” says Farheen Masfiqua Malek, who manages the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee’s community outreach member programme in Chakmarkul.

For more information about the extreme measures that were taken by volunteers in preparation, look for Smits’ article in the July issue.