Rohingya refugees in ‘climate threat hot zone’ Bangladesh | Climate Crisis News

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Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Climate experts in Bangladesh have expressed concern about large refugee camps here – some of the largest in the world – being located in an extremely hot zone.

Cox’s Bazar, a coastal region in southeastern Bangladesh, is prone to cyclones, wildfires and landslides. Without swift climate mitigation action and investment, Bangladesh’s coastal population and the one million Rohingya refugees it hosts are in grave danger, analysts say.

Although it got away from the worst effects of Cyclone Mocha, the area is still in great danger, according to scientists.

Saleemul Huq, climate scientist and director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development, said landslides are the biggest problem in Rohingya camps. Forecasting heavy rain patterns and cyclones is a challenging task, and this was evident in our recent encounter with Cyclone Mocha.

“While Bangladesh as a whole may be well prepared, Cox’s Bazar is still a hotspot for climate threats,” Huq told Al Jazeera.

“The timing of the wheels is unpredictable as we have seen with the recent threat towards Cox’s Bazar. Although the camps are aware of the problems, the lack of cyclone shelters is a major issue. Unlike other coastal areas in Bangladesh, the camps do not have proper shelters. “

If a cyclone were to hit Cox’s Bazar directly, the situation would be dire, he said.

“Bangladesh has been making progress in dealing with climate change, but we have to admit that there is a lack of cyclone centers in the camps, putting Rohingyas at great risk.”

The climate scientist said steps must be taken to prepare the camps for weather-related disasters.

“As the effects of human-induced climate change become more apparent and visible and lead to significant loss and damage, all actors, including governments as well as otherwise, to work together in a whole-society approach. forward,” said Huq.

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world and tens of millions of people may have to flee the low-lying coast as sea levels rise in the years to come. to come

A Rohingya refugee repairs his shelter after being blown away by Cyclone Mocha
A Rohingya refugee repairs her shelter after Cyclone Mocha blew the roof off [Rubayet Mahmood/Al Jazeera]

‘He might have been killed’

After Cyclone Mocha, which hit Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine hardest, the Cox’s Bazaar area was affected with more than 450,000 people affected, including more than 21,000 Rohingya refugees.

Nur Ayesha, a 25-year-old Rohingya, shared her harrowing experience and the challenges her family faces after the storm.

“On the day of the bicycle, my children went to school while I stayed at home with my youngest daughter,” Nur Ayesha recalled.

“Suddenly, a tree fell on me inside the house while I was cutting fish to prepare our food. It was lucky that the tree was not too big, because my daughter and I could have been killed. Trees fell from both sides of my house, leaving my house in ruins, and the solar panel was blown away. My husband is fixing the solar panel now.”

Nur Ayesha expressed disappointment at the lack of support aid groups received for the cleanup. “Nobody gave me bamboo or any materials to repair my house. In the area where I used to farm, I somehow managed to collect bamboo by myself. I want to strengthen my family, but it is difficult to get the necessary materials.”

Nur Ayesha's husband repairing the solar panel in front of the damaged shelter
Nur Ayesha’s husband is repairing a solar panel in front of the damaged home [Rubayet Mahmood/Al Jazeera]

‘Burn in the Flames’

Laila Begum, a 50-year-old woman from the camps, pressed for better preparedness after severe weather, describing her experience with Cyclone Mocha.

“The wind blew off the thatch, damaging our clothes and our belongings inside. With no one in the house, only me and my daughters, we were scared and under heavy rain. The spill caused water to enter the house. We need a stronger foundation to prevent such incidents in the future,” Begum told Al Jazeera.

The camps are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The materials used to build shelters are highly susceptible to fires, which contributes to a widespread feeling of uncertainty and helplessness among the residents.

Mohammad Hasan, 60, a Rohingya refugee, expressed concern about the proximity of homes in the camps and the dangers of scorching temperatures.

“Every house is close to another house and if a fire broke out, we would have no choice but to burn in the flames,” he said.

Nur Islam, a 42-year-old refugee shopkeeper in the camps, ran home when Cyclone Mocha’s winds picked up. “My sister and I got the thatch on our house and shop, tying the solar panels with ropes to protect them from the cyclone.

“The government and NGOs provided assistance to those with total losses, but families with less damage received no assistance. I had some materials that I used to fortify my house, but I need stronger materials.”

Hope for tomorrow?

Sanjeev Kafley, from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), highlighted the serious climate risks facing the Rohingya refugees, as well as their hosts on the Bangladesh coast.

“It is essential to acknowledge that these challenges extend beyond the confines of the camps, affecting the local community in general. Cyclones do not discriminate; they impact both the camps and the host community,” Kafley said.

“This crisis remains unpredictable with an uncertain duration and an unknown future. The need for continued humanitarian aid is undeniable, making it imperative that we explore strategies to ensure our actions are sustainable and climate sensitive.”

Kafley linked the challenges of climate threats in the refugee camps with the state of despair among the Rohingya population.

“When you don’t have hope it hurts, we all live with hope. These risk factors related to climate change in the camps remain because there is no sustainable solution. There is no hope,” he said.

“We need to examine how the global community views this agenda and come together to support climate-friendly humanitarian action in Cox’s Bazar.”

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