Supervisor General of KSrelief, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah visited International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) relief operations for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday.
The visit included an inspection of a new logistics base funded by the Saudi foundation, which will play a key role in getting vital aid to the refugees during the difficult and dangerous conditions expected during the upcoming monsoon season.
The logistics base at Nhilla will be a hub for IOM’s distribution of aid to refugees in the southern part of Cox’s Bazar during the rainy season, when mud and landslides are expected to create severe access challenges across the entire district. The hub will guarantee aid deliveries to remote areas even if established distribution points further north are cut off.
Around 900,000 Rohingya refugees are now sheltered in Cox’s Bazar and almost entirely reliant on aid. Most arrived after fleeing the extreme violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State that began in August 2017.
IOM, its partner aid agencies, and the government of Bangladesh are involved in a massive joint effort to develop and upgrade access and improve and ready supply systems before the bad weather hits, which may be as early as next month.
During his visit, Al Rabeeah also witnessed a WFP distribution of rice - roughly 550 MT donated by KSrelief - together with non-food items including blankets, mattresses, and plastic buckets, also donated by his agency.
“I am happy to be at the Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to witness the joint work of IOM and KSrelief as well as IOM’s support to the Rohingya ethnic group. Our work is a model of compassion for those in need, and an example for many other excellent partner projects globally,” said Al Rabeeah, who was an internationally acclaimed surgeon and health expert before joining KSrelief.
KSrelief has provided over $4.2 million to fund IOM’s shelter, water, sanitation, and hygiene support for Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis living in Cox’s Bazar.
KSrelief also organized an airlift of aid into Cox’s Bazar in September 2017 which included rice, blankets, mattresses, and water purification tablets.
IOM and other agencies have worked with the government of Bangladesh to significantly improve the conditions in the camps since those early days, but the arrival of the monsoon will bring new dangers and fresh misery for the refugees as well as the local community. Work is urgently underway to improve shelters, re-locate those most at risk and build resilience among those who will be affected.
Key aid items are being stockpiled by IOM to be distributed when the monsoon and cyclone seasons begin. This is bolstered by pipeline agreements with partners to ensure that the whole humanitarian community is well stocked with essential aid items.
To help restore access to the refugees quickly in the event of landslides and blocked roads, IOM is working alongside WFP and UNHCR to preposition machinery at key locations for speedy disaster response operations. These will enable humanitarian access and clear drains and waterways to reduce the risk of flooding.
ork also continues to improve roads and drainage to prevent further erosion on the bare hilly slopes which were cleared of vegetation during the initial influx of refugees by those desperate to find a place to build accommodations.
In recent weeks, IOM has provided 22,500 families with shelter-upgrade kits as part of a rollout to help 120,000 households improve and strengthen their living quarters. In addition, 33,550 households have received community training on shelter upgrades and disaster risk reduction. More than 550 families deemed most at risk have already been relocated to safer areas with that number set to increase significantly over the coming weeks as new sites are prepared.
The KSrelief delegation will be observing IOM’s work to support the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Balukhali/Kutupalong makeshift settlements, which together make up one of the biggest refugee camps in the world. The team will also be visiting medical facilities supporting the refugees and the local community.
After visiting a Malaysian-run hospital in the settlement, the team will travel to Cox’s Bazar General Hospital, to which IOM medical staff refer refugees and local people for specialist treatment if it is not available at any of IOM’s 12 medical clinics in the district.
“This visit comes at a vital time for the humanitarian response to this crisis, as we prepare for the impending monsoon and cyclone seasons,” said IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker, who accompanied the KSrelief delegation.
“We are grateful to KSrelief for their support in Cox’s Bazar and around the world and we appreciate this strong partnership. However, we are still operating with funding shortages, notably in the areas of site management and improvement, alternative fuel supplies, and shelter. All of these are essential, especially in response to the expected extreme weather over the next few months. Our main priority as always is to save lives,” he added.