The Rohingya refugees who have already suffered the summer heat and monsoon rains of Bangladesh are now bracing themselves for a merciless winter, signalled by the cold wave of late autumn.
Most of the displaced Rohingyas who escaped the military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state entered Bangladesh with only a few clothes among their meagre possessions.
Many do not have appropriate clothing to protect themselves from the harsh weather which has arrived on the back of a couple of days of rainfall in the last week.
The chilly weather has made the lives of the Rohingyas even more difficult. The aid organisations and relief workers were not prepared for a sudden change of weather and are not equipped to deal with the situation.
The Dhaka Tribune has learned that a number of aid workers have started distributing blankets to Rohingya refugees, but the supply is not enough to meet demand.
Sexagenarian Latif Ahmed, who is staying in Balukhali camp, said his polyethylene-made tent cannot kept out the cold.
“The cold wave hit us following the rainfall on Tuesday and Wednesday nights last week. Three of my grandchildren are suffering from fever because of it,” he said.
Mosammat Khadija, 40, another refugee hailing from Maungdaw, broke into tears while describing her life at the camp.
She said: “In Myanmar, the army ruined us and here the harsh weather and sudden rain and cold wave at night have increased our suffering. Is there no end to our misery?”
However, some of the refugees got lucky and received tents made of better material.
“My tent is made of a fabric which is thick enough to ward of most types of adverse weather,” said Alamgir, who received his tent from Christian Aid in the Jamtoli Rohingya Camp.
Christian Aid’s Project Coordinator Md Monir Uddin told the Dhaka Tribune that the winter seemed to have arrived early this year.
“We distributed around 12,000 blankets to 6,000 Rohingya families at Jamtoli Camp and Burmapara in the last three days,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The cold wave has affected around 50,000 Rohingya refugees that are currently living at Jamtoli Camp, increasing the risk of cold-related illnesses such as phenomena, cough and fever.”
Monir, who is also the site coordinator of all NGOs at Jamtoli camp, added that along with Christian Aid, another aid agency named World Vision is also distributing blankets to the refugees.
However, winters clothes and blankets distributed by the aid agencies are not enough to cover the sheer number of refugees in camps.
Balukhali camp provides shelter to around 150,000 Rohingya and most of them have no winter clothes.
The situation in Kutupalong, the largest among the 12 refugee camps in the region, is by far the worst.
More than 300,000 Rohingya living in the camp are suffering the adverse effects of the cold weather. Children and elderly people are most at risk.
Some of the Rohingya refugees are trying to stay warm by lighting fires outside their tents, but the practice has since been banned by the authorities due to the risk of fires spreading out of control in the camp.
Both Kutupalong Rohingya Camp General Secretary Saiful Islam and Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr Mohammad Abdus Salam have warned that the Rohingyas are not adequately prepared to deal with the winter in Bangladesh.
According to United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at least 607,000 Rohingyas have entered the country to escape the violence that erupted in Myanmar on August 25.