• Friday, Apr 26, 2019
  • Last Update : 02:30 pm

UNHCR extremely concerned about monsoon risks at Rohingya camps

  • Published at 01:43 am June 1st, 2018
Left: UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations George Okoth-Obbo speaks in Dhaka yesterday. Monsoon clouds gather over the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee campRajib Dhar/Syed Zakir Hossain
Left: UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations George Okoth-Obbo speaks in Dhaka on Thursday. Monsoon clouds gather over the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp Photos: Rajib Dhar/Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday laid emphasis on safe relocation of Rohingyas to avert deaths due to monsoon.

“We remain extremely concerned though there has been considerable work that has been done,” UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations George Okoth-Obbo told reporters at a press conference here mentioning that rains have already arrived.

He said the relocation of 200,000 Rohingyas to a safer place is the key to saving their lives and it will have to be done as soon as possible.

The UNHCR senior official shared about difficulties in making the allocated land useable for Rohingya shelters.

He suggested that moving the refgees to schools or other community centres, and even open fields where camps to could be set up for five to six weeks during the monsoon season would help mitigate these risks. 

“A number of refugees have already been relocated,” said Okoth-Obbo, adding that around 150,000 more were still at risk, 20,000 of whom are at direct risk of death.

It is estimated that 200,000 Rohingya could be at danger of landslides and or flooding, and UNHCR and its partners have been working to try to mitigate the risks inside the settlements, as well as relocating families who would potentially lose their homes due to landslides to safer areas, said UNHCR.

Extensive work to prepare the hilly land was part of a joint initiative by UNHCR, IOM and WFP under the interagency Site Management Engineering Project (SMEP).

UNHCR and partners are currently installing shelters and services on an initial 12 acres of newly-prepared land that could provide homes for nearly 500 families.

‘No safety in repatriation yet’

Okoth-Obbo expressed grave concerns about the safety and security of the Rohingya refugees regarding the repatriation process.

Despite receiving a small list of verified citizens for repatriation they are unsure about the sustainable return of Rohingyas to Myanmar. 

“We do not believe that conditions currently exist for the safe return of the refugees to Myanmar,” he said.

Regarding the issue of funding, Okoth-Obbo said that they had originally asked for one billion dollars to help with the Rohingya crisis, but had only been able to secure 20% of those funds so far.

Responding to a question about the relocation of refugees to Bhashan Char, he said that they were planning to visit the area to know further details about the facilities in the region.

Earlier, Okoth-Obbo visited Rohingya camps to review UNHCR’s work on the ground, assess emergency response and monsoon preparations.

He arrived here on Sunday on a five-day visit to see the agency’s ongoing response to the Rohingya refugee emergency and preparations ahead of the monsoon season.