Rohingya Response Shelter in Action ISCG-Working Together #monsoon is coming

When hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees began fleeing into Bangladesh in late August 2017, most arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. Many spent weeks sleeping under rainy skies during their escape from violence Myanmar.

Almost 700,000 refugees have now crossed the border in extreme need of shelter and support. A massive response by UN and other agencies in the Inter Sector Coordination Group reached tens of thousands of families with emergency shelter kits to protect them from the elements. Now, with monsoon and cyclone season fast approaching the refugees face new dangers and shelters must be strengthened.

Photo credit: Muse Mohammed, IOM

Urgent action is now being taken to distribute 180,000 shelter upgrade kits and to teach people how to best prepare their quarters for the storms ahead.

With life-threatening floods and landslides predicted to hit the refugee camps, work is also underway to prepare safer ground and relocate thousands of those at greatest risk. But with months of rains ahead and a city-sized population living under tarpaulins on unstable slopes, more support for shelter provision is desperately needed.

More than 7.5 million bamboo poles have been supplied to help strengthen shelters, and over 100,000 families are being taught how to make their homes more secure and stable.

Millions of bamboos are being distributed in the Balukhali and Kutupalong settlements to upgrade Rohingya shelters. Photo credit: Nayana Bose, ISCG

Upgrade kits also contain additional tarpaulins, ropes, and sand bags which will all help make shelters more robust.

Photo credit: Mashrif Abdullah, IOM

But safe shelter is a constant worry for many refugees. Most Rohingya refugee children who took part in a recent mental health support activity drew a house when asked to depict their biggest dream.

Photo Credit: Fiona MacGregor, IOM
UNFPA Women Friendly Space. Women and their Dream Tree. Women spent time at each of the Women Spaces dreaming and imagining - a dream of safe shelter. Photo Credit : UNFPA

Khursida is one of those who took part in a shelter strengthening training. Now she says she feels more optimistic about the future: "I am happy my shelter will be stronger than before."

Photo credit: Mashrif Abdullah, IOM

With shelter such a key concern for the entire family, Rohingya women are also playing an important part in preparation for monsoon.

Photo credit: Carolina Celi, IOM

Although it is not traditional for Rohingya women to work outside the home, many are enthusiastic about joining the training sessions and often there are more women than men in the classes.

Photo credit: Carolina Celi, IOM

Getting ready for the challenges to come is often a group activity as those refugees who learn about shelter strengthening then share techniques with others.

Photo credit: Fiona MacGregor, IOM

Across the camps women and men can be seen busy preparing for the weather to come, as the refugees take a proactive approach to the dangers ahead.

Photo credit: Nayana Bose, ISCG

Activity on shelter upgrade goes on from dawn to dusk in the camps.

Bangladesh. Racing to avert monsoon catastrophe in Rohingya camp. Photo Credit: Roger Arnold, UNHCR
Rohingya men participate in a shelter upgradation training at Balukhali camp in March. Photo credit: Rahul Dey, Christian Aid

"I get much pleasure from work like this," says Kulsuma Khatun who is a cyclone preparedness community volunteer in Kutupalong camp. Kulsuma will use her new shelter and severe weather training to keep safe her daughter, mother, and others living in her camp block nearby when cyclone and monsoon storms hit.

Photo credit: Lynette Nyman, IFRC

Often entire families are involved in making things safer for everyone, but for parents such as Hafez Zubaed, worries about conditions in the camps remain even when they reinforce their shelters.

Hafez Zubaed is a Rohingya refugee who after receiving training on shelter upgrading is improving his home. Photo credit: Mashrif Abdullah, IOM

In many sections of the camps ground is already beginning to collapse and shelters sit perched on precarious slopes.

Photo Credit: Fiona MacGregor

More than 3500 workers, mainly refugees, are working to prepare land for new shelters ahead of monsoon. Many of the hills cannot be accessed by heavy machinery and first have to be made ready by hand before machines move in.

Photo Credit: Fiona MacGregor, IOM
Photo Credit: Saikat Mojumd, WFP

Families identified as being most at risk of direct landslide, are being support to pack up their shelters and relocate to safer ground ahead.

Photo Credit: Fiona MacGregor, IOM

For those who need it additional help is on hand. Jahida, who was widowed after her husband died en-route to Malaysia after leaving Myanmar two years ago, was recognized as an "extremely vulnerable" case and aid workers built her shelter for her.

Photo credit: Fiona MacGregor, IOM

But despite the efforts of all involved, just a tiny fraction of those in need can be relocated to safer ground.

Bangladesh. UNHCR and refugees prepare for monsoon season. Photo credit: Roger Arnold, UNHCR

With the threat of monsoon hovering on the horizon, urgent support is needed to relocate and improve shelter conditions across the camps.

Photo credit: Saikat Mojumd, WFP
Photo credit: Christian Aid Org, IOM, IFRC, ISCG, UNHCR, UNFPA, WFP, Save the Children
Created By
Carolina Celi

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