The rains, which began in June, are likely to leave a serious impact on the health and well-being of the Rohingyas, said MSF
The onset of monsoon rains in Bangladesh has made life more difficult for the Rohingya refugees taking refuge in makeshift shelters of bamboo and plastic sheeting across the Cox's Bazar peninsula, MSF said on Sunday.
The rains, which began in June, are likely to leave a serious impact on the health and well-being of the Rohingyas, this monsoon season as well as in the future, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
A shocking effect was observed on the living conditions in the camps when the first major rains fell. People were injured, while thousands of others were displaced due to damaged shelters and flooding. A young child died.
Across the camps, people could be seen wading through water polluted with waste from latrines which flowed down paths and seeped into shelters.
“I will never forget the shivering shirtless elderly man who paused to work on securing his shelter to tell us of the hardships he was facing after relocating to a new part of the camp,” said Sam Turner, MSF emergency coordinator in the Rohingya camps.
Turner said the man had been moved to the top of an exposed plateau, where they had little access to any services. “His family had lost their food supplies during the move. They were huddled inside on a piece of tarpaulin, in the middle of waters that had overflowed from nearby latrines and were subsiding down the slopes. The man himself laboured outside to prevent the wind from blowing their new home away."
At the risk of death
MSF has treated people for injuries resulting from landslides. Several people, particularly children and the elderly, drowned after falling into ponds or pits filled with water.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas still remain at risk of disease outbreaks, aid disruptions and complicated access to healthcare.
Ryan Bellingham, MSF water and sanitation coordinator, said until now, there have been incredibly intense periods of rain that were relatively short but flooded homes and caused landslides, washing shelters off the hillsides altogether.
Poor sanitation caused by landslides
Bellingham also talked about how the sanitation has worsened during the monsoon season, with latrines collapsing, rapidly filling, and some overflowing.
“Now we see subsidence and latrine structures breaking and also being washed away by the landslides,” he said.
Before the onset of the rains in May, 17,302 latrines were available for a population of 636,000 people in the Kutupalong-Balukhali mega-camp.
In part due to the poor quality of their construction, more than 2,500 latrines in the camp have already filled up, and this number is set to increase as more torrential rains are expected.
MSF, however, continues to monitor the situation. Their teams have started construction work on a facility that will safely process waste from latrines, so latrines can be emptied and made available for use.
Since many latrines are communal, the heavy rains make the walk from households to latrines increasingly treacherous. This leads to people resorting to open defecation, increasing public health risk as faecal matter washes into rivers and streams.
MSF's emergency healthcare
Besides tending to injuries directly caused by flooding and landslides, MSF is also seeing many patients suffering from respiratory tract infections and acute watery diarrhoea.
In preparation of responding to emergencies such as disease outbreaks, MSF has set up diarrhoeal treatment centres at most of their health centres. Outreach teams also continue to visit households to provide health education and to refer and flag cases where assistance is required.
The monsoon season is expected to continue until September. The next cyclone season is likely to begin in October and is likely to bring more heavy rains and further health risks.