Race to prevent disease as thousands of Rohingya refugees arrive daily in Bangladesh - Oxfam

Race to prevent disease as thousands of Rohingya refugees arrive daily in Bangladesh - Oxfam

Aid workers are in a race against time to stop the rapid spread of disease as thousands of Rohingya people continue to arrive in Bangladesh every day. Oxfam warned that an outbreak of cholera would devastate the camps where hundreds of thousands of people are without safe water, shelter or enough food to eat. 

More than 50,000 newly-arrived Rohingya refugees have been hit by diarrhea, pneumonia, skin disease and acute malnutrition as aid agencies struggle to meet the needs of more than half a million people who have arrived from neighbouring Myanmar since August.

Oxfam engineers are working through torrential rain and floods to install water pumps and tanks, latrines and emergency shelters and have so far provided help to 180,000 people in the over-crowded, ill-equipped camps and ad-hoc settlements of Cox's Bazaar. 

Safe water, food and clean toilets are critical to preventing the outbreak of cholera and many other illnesses that have already affected people living in the camps. Currently, the camps are short of 25,000 toilets, increasing the risk of disease.

Enamul Huque, an Oxfam water and sanitation engineer who has worked for more than 25 years building water systems in the world's biggest refugees camps, including Zaatari, Bidi Bidi and Dadaab, says the crisis is one of the fastest population movements he has ever experienced. 

Huque said: “With more than half a million people having arrived in Bangladesh in less than six weeks, we are working as hard as we can to avert a possible cholera outbreak. Providing people here with lifesaving water and sanitation has been a huge challenge, especially along the Naff peninsula where torrential rains have helped to turn the mud tracks over hilly terrain into clay quagmires.” 

One woman who has recently arrived in the camp told Oxfam about her journey: “I came to Bangladesh about a month ago with my family. I walked for nine days to reach the camps. For three weeks I didn't have clean water or soap to have a shower or even to wash my hands. Yesterday, we got a toilet and a tub, and today we got soap and some food. I am happy, for the first time in weeks I can finally wash my clothes."

The latest shipment of aid dispatched from Oxfam's warehouse in the UK has provided 15 tonnes of water pumps, water tanks and material for construction of emergency latrines to provide water to 35,000 more people. A further two shipments planned will help Oxfam to reach 200,000 more refugees.

The total need for clean water each day is 58 million litres. The existing supply in and around the camps is providing less than a litre of water per person per day – insufficient to meet even their basic needs. 

In addition to providing clean, safe water and toilets, Oxfam and its partners have also been distributing emergency food materials including flattened rice, sugar and high-energy biscuits as well as providing hygiene materials like laundry and toilet soap to over 100,000 people.

Oxfam are urgently appealing for people to donate to their Bangladesh Rohingya Crisis appeal: https://www.oxfamireland.org/bangladesh  

ENDS

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Alice Dawson on 00353 (0) 83 198 1869 / alice.dawson@oxfamireland.org

NORTHERN IRELAND: Phillip Graham on 0044 (0) 7841 102535 / phillip.graham@oxfamireland.org