MedGlobal Details Dangers of Monsoon Season for Rohingya Refugees in New Report
Cox’s Bazar - As camps in the Cox’s Bazar district experience near-constant flooding, MedGlobal warns that the situation for Rohingya refugees has the potential to spiral from a crisis to a catastrophe during monsoon season. Already, there has been at least one confirmed death from mudslides in Cox’s Bazar, with locals reporting more. Though the rainfall has not been particularly heavy yet, NGOs are bracing for a worst case scenario as monsoon season continues. MedGlobal details the risks of the dangerous summer monsoon season in its new report, In the Eye of the Cyclone: The Challenges of Providing Health Care for Rohingya Refugees During the Monsoon Season.
The refugee crisis in Bangladesh is at a critical level. Since August 2017, Rohingya refugees, who have long been persecuted in Myanmar, have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in record numbers, seeking safety from acute violence and ethnic cleansing. There are currently 1.3 million people, including 703,000 children, in need of health assistance in Cox’s Bazar. Over 60,000 women in Cox’s Bazaar are pregnant or require obstetric care. Monsoon season risks causing mass casualties and creating landlocked refugee communities, unable to access assistance because of flooding. Health providers are also bracing for outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera.
“With very limited resources, the Bangladeshi people have opened their hearts and homes to more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees who sought refuge fleeing from unimaginable atrocities in the past few months,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, MedGlobal Co-founder and President. “But the current situation in Cox’s Bazar district is a recipe for disaster. If a cyclone hits, at least 60% of the infrastructure may be destroyed, many lives will be lost. The impact on the Rohingya refugees will be catastrophic.”
In interviews with patients, MedGlobal has documented the ongoing fears of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. “My greatest concern about monsoon season is the safety of my children,” said Nour*, a 21-year-old Rohingya woman. “We live in the hillside, and I think it will be dangerous. Now, my child is very sick. How we will be able to go to the clinic anymore if the child is sick during the rainy season?”
“I can’t see very well now, so how will I survive in a monsoon? I am living with my wife, all of our kids have been killed in Burma. It is so hard to collect food now because we are old. I only pray that we will survive this monsoon season,” said Mohammad*, a 50-year-old Rohingya man who recently fled to Bangladesh.
MedGlobal has been on the ground since the first months of the crisis, working in partnership with a local organization, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children in Bangladesh, and sending weekly teams of health workers to provide free healthcare to Rohingya refugees and underserved populations in Bangladesh. Every morning, MedGlobal health workers provide cyclone preparedness training to patients, helping inform them about what to expect and how to prepare. MedGlobal is also adapting its health services during the monsoon season in collaboration with its local partner.
MedGlobal recommends an immediate increase in support for the humanitarian response in Cox’s Bazar in order to deal with the worsening humanitarian situation and save the lives of the most vulnerable refugees. The lack of funding for any sector could have a catastrophic effect on the entire humanitarian response, especially during monsoon season. Monsoon preparedness and response work must be scaled up and a comprehensive emergency evacuation plan must be prepared in case a mass evacuation is needed. MedGlobal also reiterates the importance of partnering with and learning from local NGOs with experience delivering services during monsoon season.
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* Only first names used to protect patient safety.