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Monsoon in Rohingya camps: IOM appeals for more funds for better response

  • Published at 11:10 pm July 15th, 2019
Non-stop rainfall has left most of the Rohingya refugee camps waterlogged Courtesy

So far in 2019, only 33% of the $920m fund appealed for the refugees have been met  

As the unrelenting monsoon rain continues to badly impact hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas living in different settlements in Cox’s Bazar, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has appealed to the international community for more funds to mitigate the suffering in the camps due to the monsoon, and respond to the overall problem.

“The current storm system appears to have weakened, but we are only halfway through the 2019 monsoon season, and the response to adverse weather conditions has already begun to exceed what was needed in 2018,” Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM deputy head of mission in Bangladesh, has said while detailing the responses of the UN agencies to the impact of monsoon.

“With only one-third of funding requirements met for this year, the response to the Rohingya crisis requires substantially more commitment both financially and politically from the international community,” he was quoted as saying in a joint press release issued yesterday by three leading UN agencies – IOM, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and World Food Programme (WFP).

For the year of 2019, a fund of $920 million was appealed for the Rohingya camps, but between January and the second week of July (seven and a half months), only 33.6% of the demands have been met, according to the website of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In three important sectors directly related to the housing of the Rohingya refugees, the funding that is available so far is much below 33.6%.

For shelter, about $128.8 million was appealed, of which only $15.6 million – 12.1% – has been met. In regards to refugee site management, out of the appealed $98.7 million, $24.3 million has been made available so far, while for the logistics, $500,000 of the appealed $2.8 million has been met.

Meanwhile, according to the joint release, agencies have been working round the clock to repair damage, temporarily relocate affected people, and activate disaster response plans following eight days of rain and wind – the most severe weather condition the Rohingya refugees have faced in Cox’s Bazar since the 2017 exodus.

Between July 4 and July 12, 709mm of rainfall was recorded in parts of the Kutupalong refugee settlement, out of a July average of about 1,040mm for Cox’s Bazar. A combination of landslides, floods and wind has damaged or destroyed hundreds of structures and temporarily displaced thousands of refugees.

About 5% of the nearly 1,000,000 residents in Cox’s Bazar were directly impacted. Although small in percentage terms, its effect on already-vulnerable refugees has been significant.

Preparations to tackle monsoon in Rohingya camps

The IOM, UNHCR and WFP have dispatched staff, partners, and refugee volunteers to relocate vulnerable individuals to safety, provide extra emergency food assistance, and repair damaged buildings, roads and slope reinforcements.

Under the overall leadership of the Bangladesh government, the UN agencies and partners have been working year-round with refugees to prepare for the monsoon and cyclone seasons. This includes a large-scale program to upgrade shelters and infrastructure, distribute emergency supplies, and train the community in risk reduction.

The refugees themselves are playing a central role in mitigating and responding to the impact of monsoon through awareness building, preemptive hazard identification, disaster risk reduction work in the camps, and as first responders in Disaster Management Units and other community volunteer programs.

“With the physical foundations for emergency response in place from 2018, our strategy rests on placing refugee communities at the centre of the response, rooted in trained refugee volunteers’ own capacities, self-reliance, and ability to raise awareness and act as first responders,” said Marin Din Kajdomcaj, UNHCR head of operations and sub-office in Cox’s Bazar.

“Engineering teams have also been busier this year, responding to multiple landslides and racing to repair slopes. A tremendous amount of engineering work has been done over the past 18 months, which has mitigated the impact of this rainfall event. However, there is near constant work that needs to be done to make the camps safer, which requires ongoing resourcing and manpower,” said Richard Ragan, WFP representative to Bangladesh.

Cox’s Bazar lies in a coastal area particularly prone to extreme weather events, including cyclones. In addition to providing direct support, UN agencies have focused on training camp residents as first responders through Disaster Management Units under the Cyclone Preparedness Program, and have extended support to Bangladeshi host communities.

While this has significantly reduced the overall monsoon impact, recent developments demonstrate that more resources are needed to continue to strengthen capacity among the Rohingya population.