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Drenched by the rain at night, the Rohingya fight for survival

  • Published at 06:58 am October 22nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 02:56 pm October 22nd, 2017
Drenched by the rain at night, the Rohingya fight for survival
It has been 10 days since octogenarian Abdul Malek entered Bangladesh with his family, escaping the brutal military crackdown in Buthidaung, Myanmar. Malek crossed the Bangladesh-Myanmar border through Anjum Para of Ukhiya upazila and has currently taken shelter at Kutupalong Refugees Camp. He complained that stormy winds have been blowing away the tarpaulin roof on his tent every night since Thursday. “Due to my failing eyesight, I cannot tie the tent roof at night. My wife, three sons, their wives and ten grandchildren are getting drenched in the rain for the last three nights,” Malek told the Dhaka Tribune. “After sunrise, we remove the tarpaulin roof from our tent to clean the mud on it. We dry the tarpaulin roof in the sun and then reassemble it.” He further added: “We have been doing the same task for the last three days but last night’s [Saturday] storm and torrential downpour have destroyed all our belongings inside the tent.” Ramija Khatun, 30, a refuge from Maungdaw described her predicament to the Dhaka Tribune with tearful eyes: “The army ruined our lives in Myanmar and here the harsh weather is being cruel to us.” Ramija is a bit luckier than Malek, as she has the option to seek shelter in a nearby hut belonging to another registered Rohingya family, if it rains at night. The harsh weather has not been kind to the displaced Rohingya people staying in Bangladesh. The children and the elderly people are particularly at risk. According to Met office reports, Cox’s Bazar, Ukhiya, Teknaf and adjacent areas are facing torrential rain and stormy winds due to the depressing in the Bay of Bengal. “The newly arrived Rohingya initially lacked all the basic necessities but now their essential needs are gradually being met through an expansive relief supply organised by the Bangladesh government,” Kutupalong Refugees Camp General Secretary Saiful Islam told the Dhaka Tribune. He said: “Mother nature has not been kind to the Rohingya. Rain and gusty winds are damaging their tents at night and forcing them to repair their shelter every morning. This has been the scenario here since Thursday night.” Saiful further added that most of the walls of Rohingya shelter homes are made of polythene, while the roof is made of tarpaulin. The roofs are being frequently blown away by speedy wind “If the roof is blown away, the Rohingya family inside will be left soaking in the rain all night,” he said. Rafiq is another refugee who escaped from Maungdaw this August. He told the Dhaka Tribune: “The fear of losing the roof prevents us from sleeping. It is a tiresome effort to astay awake at night to protect our belongings from stormy winds and rain. “If the wind blows away the roof, the ground inside the shed does not remain dry enough for sitting us to even sit inside it.” According to the latest UNHCR report, more than 588,800 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since the violence erupted in Myanmar on August 25. Of them, around 27,185 are aged between 60 and above while some 350,829 are children of the age of 1 to 17. Ibrahim Mia, who is staying in Kutupalong refugee camp, told the Dhaka Tribune: “When it rains, staying inside or outside of our shed rarely makes any difference. We turn to the almighty so that he saves us and our belongings. “We are beginning to dread the nightfall since last Thursday.” Torrential rain during the last few days have made the grounds of the camp in Kutupalong, Balukhali, Palang Khali and Teknaf’s Nila and Leda very slippery and almost unfit for moving. After inspecting eight hills located around Kutupalong and Balukhali, the Dhaka Tribune has learned that many Rohingya refugees are living in hill slopes and peaks, by clearing out forestation there. The living condition in hilly areas was found to be unhealthy and risky. Salimullah, who took shelter at Balukhali camp, said his hut is located at the hill side and he lives under the constant threat of landslides. “We really have no choice but to live in such risky situation. When it rains, I send all my family members to my brother’s hut which is located on the peak of this hill,” he said. Speaking on the issue, Cox’s Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr Mohammad Abdus Salam said: “Living in such congested and unhealthy environment could put the Rohingya people at a greater risk of various physical maladies and diseases.” Apart from the refugees staying in various camps, many are still waiting to cross into Bangladesh from Myanmar through the borders in Ukhiya, Teknaf and Naikhongchhari. The conditions of these Rohingya are noticeably worse, as they lack even the basic necessities to survive the harsh weather condition in the border regions. “The Rohingya have no food, shelter or clothes. Rain and excessive heat, both are equally troublesome for them,” said Mahamunur Rahman, who recently crossed through the Lombabill border area. Responding to a query, Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Ali Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune: “Construction of sheds for the Rohingya people continues despite the inclement weather. We have no control over the situation, so everyone at the camp should be more patient.”
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