More than 2,000 shelters destroyed and around 12,000 people injured — this is the preliminary figure for a major fire at Cox’s Bazar Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, reported by local media on Sunday (5).
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Bangladesh, the fire originated in Camp 11 in Kutupalong, considered one of the largest refugee settlements in the world, but was brought under control in a few hours without causing fatalities.
According to the testimony of Mijanur Rahman, Commissioner for Refugees in the Asian country, the fire destroyed or damaged 2,000 shelters, 90 hospital and educational facilities and 35 mosques, leaving more than 12,000 Rohingya refugees homeless and losing all their belongings.
Authorities confessed that fires are very frequent in crowded refugee camps, made up of precarious buildings and basic living conditions, but requested an investigation to find out the causes of what happened, which have not yet been determined.
UNHCR figures state that the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is more than one million, most of whom fled Myanmar by the military crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017. The humanitarian crisis of this ethnic group is far from resolved, especially after the coup d’état in 2021.
Attempts to return refugees to their territories have been futile, associated with the poor living conditions in the camps, their uncertain legal situation, the discontent of the indigenous populations and the difficulties of the authorities of the Asian nation to maintain assistance.
The rapporteur of the United Nations Organization for Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, denounced the cuts in the food rations of the World Food Program, affecting a third of the supplies destined to the Rohingyas, which he called a “blemish on the conscience of the international community” .
“I was able to speak with families who are desperate and for whom this situation is a matter of life and death”, said the diplomat, who invited the countries of the international community to help beyond rhetoric, since funding of 125 million is needed of dollars to reverse the situation.
Selim Ullah, a 40-year-old Rohingya refugee and father of six, said “everything was reduced to ashes”. “I couldn’t save anything. Many are displaced. I don’t know what will happen. When we were in Myanmar, we faced many problems. Our houses were set on fire. Now it has happened again”, he lamented.
Translated by: Flávia Chacon