Rohingya refugees have been spotted selling relief materials, including food items, winter clothes and blankets, they had received additionally at various markets in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas for some extra money they can use in emergencies.
Recent on spot visits have also found that the blankets bearing the logos of different aid agencies, including those of UNHCR, are being sold at these open markets.
Local and international NGOs, and public and private organizations had distributed the blankets and winter clothes among the refugees long before the freezing cold wave and thick fog swept over Cox's Bazar.
More than 655,000 Rohingyas, facing brutal persecution in Myanmar's Rakhine state, have fled to Bangladesh since August 25 last year. They have taken asylum in 12 refugee camps in the two upazilas.
Along with other local and foreign organizations, the government has provided humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas since their arrival – including allotting 3,000 acres of land for their shelters, food, medical assistance, and warm clothes and blankets for winter.
However, many refugees are now selling their extra clothes and blankets and other relief goods, including rice, pulses, oil, sugar, milk, chili peppers and soap, off in exchange of cash while a number Rohingya families said they were in dire need of those items.
Kutupalong camp's Ramiza Khatun and Abul Kalam told the Dhaka Tribune that they had small families and that is why they sold their extra blankets and are keeping the money for in case they need it for emergencies.
Commissioner of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission Abul Kalam said: "After selling the winter clothes and blankets in the local markets, they are now suffering from the cold and expecting to get more blankets. This is unacceptable.
“We will take action against those who sold their relief items.”
Locals said the markets where Rohingya refugees were selling the goods in Teknaf and Ukhiya included the ones at Moricha, Sonar Para, Kotbazar, Ukhiya Sadar, Kutupalong, Balukhali, Thaingkhali and Palongkhali.
Local traders are buying the goods at half the market price and then selling them in these markets.
A local businessman named Kabir Ahmed, who was spotted selling UNHCR blankets at Moricha Bazar, said besides buying the materials, many were also assisting the Rohingyas to come out of the camps and find work.
Many Rohingyas said that they did not have enough space to keep the relief materials in the small tents they were currently sheltered at, and in order to get some extra cash they were selling them off.
However, a number of refugee families complained that did not have any blankets to fight the cold.
Abida Khatun, a Rohingya woman at one of the camps, said: “I have three children. Many families had received four to five blankets but I did not get even one. And now they are selling the extra blankets when we need them.”
Confirming the situation to the Dhaka Tribune, Balukhali camp managing committee Chairman Lalu Majhi urged the authorities not to distribute any more blankets until this matter was resolved.
Ukhiya Upazila Executive Officer Md Nikaruzzaman also said that they would soon take action against the Rohingyas who are selling of relief goods and the traders who are buying them.