An initial 12 acres of newly prepared land is now ready to receive shelters and other key services, including water, hygiene and education facilities, and is capable of providing new homes for nearly 500 families living in some of the most high-risk parts of the refugee site.
The work is part of a major joint initiative among International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and World Food Programme (WFP), said a press release.
To make the land safer for families to move, dozens of earthmoving machines and a workforce of over 3,500 labourers, including both Rohingya refugees and members of the host community, were used.
The heads of all three agencies in Cox’s Bazar underscored the “urgent need” for more funding to allow “critical lifesaving work” to go ahead before monsoon hits.
Across all the settlements, around 200,000 people have been identified as being at high risk of flood and landslides when the cyclone season and heavy monsoons arrive.
The immediate priority is to try to relocate around 24,000 people at highest risk of landslide disasters.
The project is conceived as an emergency preparedness and response unit, specifically designed to save lives, reduce health risks, reduce landslide risks, mitigate flood risk and ensure access to the camps is preserved Courtesy
The statement said the Bangladesh government recently allocated around 500 acres of land for potential relocation, but due to the topography of the Cox’s Bazar area, where much of the landscape is hilly, only a fraction of that can be made safe for relocation before monsoon which will begin in earnest next month.
It also said the area was “prone to landslides even before rapid settlement on the slopes made the ground extra vulnerable to erosion.”
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said: “Our priority is to ensure the safety of refugees during this critical time of year.”
Kevin J Allen, head of UNHCR’s operations in Cox’s Bazar, said: “We’re very happy to be able to move to the next stage in this ambitious project, which has been a great example of inter-agency collaboration, in support of the Bangladesh government.”
The joint Site Maintenance Engineering Project (SMEP) between the three agencies is a practical and innovative response to support Bangladesh government in emergency preparedness and response.
The Joint Response Appeal from all key agencies working on the Rohingya response in Cox’s Bazar has secured just 16% of the total US$950 million needed for the response until the end of the year – leaving a current shortfall of $794 million.