Catastrophe Looms for Rohingya Refugees as Monsoon Season Approaches

A Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. These makeshift shelters are particularly vulnerable to storms and mudslides. A Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. These makeshift shelters are particularly vulnerable to storms and mudslides. Image via Raidió Teilifís Éireann

27 January 2018
While Myanmar and Bangladesh discuss repatriation efforts, displaced Rohingya brace for the spring monsoon season.

Over the past several months hundreds of Rohingya (a minority Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar) have fled into Bangladesh due to targeted violence that the United Nations has named a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been displaced, including upwards of half a million children.

Currently residing in temporary camps across Bangladesh, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warns that already the already dire and inhumane situation could become “catastrophic” as the spring monsoon season approaches.

Already facing inadequate shelter, a lack of clean water and sanitation has increased the risk of disease such as cholera, Hepatitis-E, malaria, and diphtheria. The displaced persons “will face an even greater risk of disease, flooding, landslides and further displacement” in the coming months as the spring monsoon season begins. Historically the most powerful and destructive storms strike the region in May. UNICEF warns that even a moderate storm could prove devastating as there is very little time to prepare and the makeshift shelters are not built to withstand such conditions.

Negotiations between Bangladesh and Myanmar have been ongoing. The two countries recently announced that they plan to repatriate the displaced Rohingya “within two years” from the start of the process, but have given no indication of when that process will begin.

The right of refugees to return home safely and voluntarily is a central part of international law with regard to refugees. Many Rohingya have stated that their return to Myanmar is contingent on seeing “positive developments in relation to their legal status and citizenship, the security situation in Rakhine state, and their ability to enjoy basic rights back home,” according to Rohingya speaking to the United Nations.

 

For more information, read:
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58427#.Wl9S_JM-eEJ
http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/1/5a5dc8584/unhcr-notes-bangladesh-myanmar-talks-stresses-importance-returns-meeting.html
https://www.unicef.org/media/media_102462.html
https://www.rte.ie/news/2018/0116/933603-unicef_rohingya/

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