International desk, Mar 18: IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is appealing for USD 182.1 million to assist 900,000 Rohingya refugees and local community members in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.IOM’s appeal is part of a broader USD 951 million UN Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis covering the same March – December 2018 period.
On August 25, 2017, a mass exodus of Rohingya refugees began from northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, to Cox’s Bazar.
Fleeing an upsurge of targeted violence, nearly one million Rohingya refugees are now sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, including thousands who arrived during previous influxes.
The local rural community, which has long been in need of support, has found itself in the middle of the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.
IOM on Sunday said it is providing livelihood, environmental improvement and health support to both refugees and locals to mitigate the impact of soaring food prices and overloaded infrastructure.
“As the monsoon season approaches, we are at a vital point where we have to increase our support for people affected by the crisis – both Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, reflecting on monsoon preparedness efforts underway in Cox’s Bazar.
IOM has relocated 236 families living in areas at risk of landslide and floods to safer areas, reports UNB.
A further 9,675 families have been trained by IOM in how to strengthen their shelters against wind and rain, and reduce the dangers associated with living on unstable, muddy hillsides.
IOM is also working to reduce the environmental impact of the refugee by providing alternative sources of fuel.
The refugees are currently dependent on wood for cooking, which has led to massive deforestation in the area.
“I look after 80 families, who settled down on top of this hill,” said Abu Ahammad, one of the block leaders in the refugee settlements.
“It’s sandy here and people didn’t get much land, so they’ve built their houses over the whole hillside with only bamboo and tarpaulins. The sandy soil will collapse when it rains and people will die as the houses fall down on top of each other. There are also latrines over there, which will be destroyed,” he added.
As those fleeing Myanmar arrived with little or nothing, providing them with basic shelter has been vital.
Over the past six months, IOM has distributed 120,000 kits, which now house some 600,000 people.
Most refugees who lived in Cox’s Bazar before August 2017 live in very poor conditions.
Some 40,000 of these people have benefitted from IOM help to upgrade their shelters.
Others who have arrived since the crisis in August are now also in urgent need of shelter upgrades, which IOM will continue to provide.
IOM is leading site management and site improvement work in Cox’s Bazar, while also directly managing some of the settlement sites as well.
Since August 2017, it has built over seven kilometres of road, 220 bamboo bridges, seven kilometres of pedestrian pathways, five and a half kilometres of pedestrian steps with handrails and five kilometres of drainage.
Improving infrastructure is particularly important for people with disabilities, elderly people and single female-headed households to assess services in the settlements.