Bangladesh’s Red Cross has warned of “serious problems” with shelter provided to Rohingya refugees at a “makeshift settlement” on the country’s east coast as conditions deteriorate for those who have fled Myanmar.
More than half a million people who fled the violence of Myanmar’s Rakhine state have registered in a sprawling camp at Kutupalong, after weeks in which Myanmar authorities have intensified attacks on Rohingya villages.
More than 400,000 have made it to Dhaka alone, with another 200,000 to follow in the coming weeks, according to aid groups.
Bangladesh’s Red Cross said tents at the Kutupalong shelter were dilapidated and exposed to flooding.
An estimated 70% of the 600,000-plus refugees live in shelters made from “very rickety wooden posts”, according to an internal committee meeting a few weeks ago, the Daily Star newspaper reported.
In one well-known camp, 100-odd houses have collapsed into a kilometre-long pit near Kutupalong, due to a lack of support, it said.
“Mismanagement” has also meant sanitation has broken down in some communities, as ponds have filled up and the refugees had been forced to live on their knees, giving them diarrhoea, it added.
Some 20,000 people are already in makeshift shelters on the island of Shah Porir Dwip. Bangladeshi authorities recently completed fencing off the island, but where villagers reside in the uninhabited island lies a major environmental challenge for authorities, according to a Human Rights Watch report published in April.
Aid groups have warned about the potential spread of waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera, as well as malnutrition, as the conditions deteriorate.
Homes are being erected in makeshift settlements on both the islands, according to Bangladesh’s police.
When asked about the Kutupalong warnings, a government spokesman told the BBC it was working “hard to improve the living conditions for the Rohingya refugees”.
A report from Famine Early Warning Systems Network, based on a study in April, said some communities on the islands had no access to clean water.
So far, the pressure on Thailand’s Ratchaburi province has seen “under-reporting of actual numbers” of arriving refugees, Reuters reported in April.