The world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, risks becoming a forgotten crisis four years after it began, Australian Red Cross is warning.
The humanitarian needs of this vulnerable community remain critical.
Despite ongoing efforts to improve living conditions, the population continue to face disasters, disease and now COVID-19.
With the highly infectious Delta variant spreading through Cox’s Bazaar, 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers are racing to vaccinate at least 48,000 people in what has become a sprawling city of makeshift camps.
The lives of more than 900,000 displaced people, mostly women and children, remain in turmoil. The outbreak has already led to the tightening of restrictions on movement in the camps, severely limiting families’ abilities to support themselves.
“Many families are engaging in high-risk behaviours to meet their basic needs, such as selling or rationing aid, and taking on additional debt. This situation makes them at high risk of trafficking,” said Adrian Prouse, the Head of Australian Red Cross’s International Humanitarian Program.
“More support is vital. We must make sure these people get the help they need to survive. The people in the camp are at risk of being forgotten,” Mr Prouse said.
Those living in the camps are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance for their daily needs. With growing unrest in the region, long term, sustainable solutions are further out of reach.
Since 2017 the Australian Red Cross has worked alongside its Bangladesh counterpart, to provide necessities, such as tarpaulin, mosquito nets, and LPG gas for cooking, that have helped hundreds of thousands of people build makeshift homes.
To date, more than 60 Australian Red Cross specialists have been deployed to Cox’s Bazaar, to help provide shelter, sanitation, and hand washing stations, as well as disaster management, health education and medical aid.
Vital work is continuing to train volunteers within the settlements to respond to emergencies, such as the deadly floods and landslides that hit the camps in July destroying thousands of homes.
The floods came just four months after fires devastated large areas of the settlements.
As the camp enters its fifth year, the focus of the Red Cross Movement is on empowering the world’s most vulnerable to help themselves as much as possible.
“COVID-19, fires, landslides and floods converge as a perfect storm making life even harder for people living in the camps and the host-communities. Bangladesh Red Crescent teams have been working non-stop to help people build sturdier homes and to be prepared for all emergencies.” said Hrusikesh Harichandan, Head of Cox's Bazar Sub Delegation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“Right now, we're running a huge COVID-19 vaccine drive and in recent floods and fires, evacuating safely and being prepared has saved countless lives in these dense camps," he added.
“The people in the camps people are entirely reliant on aid. We can’t afford to forget them.” Adrian Prouse said.
“They are extraordinary resilient people, who have the capacity not only to survive but to get on with their lives. We need to help them do that,” he added.
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