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Dhaka Tribune

Conditions in Rohingya camps better, but still far from ideal

Rohingyas happy in camps as situation in Rakhine is much worse

Update : 01 Apr 2019, 11:38 AM

The conditions of the Rohingya settlements in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas have improved significantly from what it was during the arrival of the refugees 19 months ago.

However, the camps are still far from ideal.

Overcrowdedness is the main problem, which has been creating many health and social problems in the makeshift camps.

Government officials said the situation is likely to deteriorate in the future, as the population of the settlements have been increasing every day.

Nevertheless, officials stressed the importance of ensuring food and basic needs for the displaced Rohingyas.

Also Read- Rohingya crisis: Host community furious over badly affected livelihood

Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh and taken refuge in the camps since the military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state began on August 25, 2017. They joined the 400,000 Rohingyas who had already come to Cox’s Bazar earlier.

This correspondent visited the camps and spoke to the Rohingyas who have been living there since their 2017 exodus. 

Despite several problems, many Rohingyas told this correspondent that they still prefer living in the camps over going back to Rakhine because their safety is being ensured here by the host government.

Rohingya children playing on the roof of a makeshift house made of bamboo and plastic |Dhaka Tribune

“I cannot ask for more. Here in Bangladesh, at least I can sleep without fearing of losing my life or being tortured. I will only return to my home in Rakhine if my security is ensured,” Mohammad Yusuf, who lives at Camp 9 in Balukhali, told the Dhaka Tribune.   

When asked about the congestion in the camps, Mizanur Rahman, an official from the Public Administration Ministry and also in-charge of Camp 9 and 10, said they are putting in all efforts to ensure a less congested environment.

“Keeping the congestion in mind, the government is trying to relocate them to Bhashan Char. Let us see what happens,” he said.

Replying to a query, he said: “Earlier, we had some problems regarding law and order, but now things are under control.”

Saving lives was the priority 

According to government officials, international and local non-governmental organizations, everyone’s focus was to save lives of the Rohingyas, who started arriving in Cox’s Bazar in late August 2017.

They said now that arrivals have stopped and the situation in the settlements have become stable, “midterm” measures are being taken to improve the conditions, including the construction of houses that are better than the existing ones that are made of bamboo and plastic.

Also Read- What is behind the rising chaos in Rohingya camps?

Over time, many other facilities like health clinics, learning centres and support for adolescents and women have been ensured, they added.

Officials said there were still many things that need to be done, but also that nothing much can be done when over a million people are housed on less than 10,000 acres of land.

“This suffocating situation is making the residents rude and quarrelsome. And we have to spend quite a lot of our time solving their issues that arises because of sharing homes and toilets,” a police official said.

“How long can you be confined to a small place without any work or activities? This kind of situation makes a person mentally unhealthy, which leads him or her to do things that should not be done,” he said.

An official of an international NGO said: “In some cases, some 20 people have to live in a space of less than 200sqft. Can you imagine? But this is the reality. More land is needed for the betterment of the situation. But we do not have land.”

The Rohingyas, who appear to have accepted these living conditions, said no one wants to live in this kind of situation, but they have no choice.

“The best thing for us is to return our homes in Rakhine. But that seems very unlikely,” a young Rohingya, who identified himself as Masum, told the Dhaka Tribune.

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