Caritas reports on fire in Bangladesh Refugee Camp


CoxsBazarFirescene 350Project Compassion Week 1 and Week 5 stories have featured Jamila and Halima, refugee women who fled from violence in Myanmar to the protection of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. You may have seen media coverage of the extensive fires which swept through an area of the camp on 22 March.


At least eleven people were killed, more than 500 injured, and a further 400 people still unaccounted for, in the massive fires which swept through Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on March 22. The scale and intensity of the fire was unprecedented in the camps, and destroyed or damaged at least 60 per cent of the affected camps, leaving approximately 45,000 people homeless. Assessment of the full extent of the damage continues.

Cox’s Bazar is home to 1.3 million refugees, who live in cramped informal housing with limited access to clean water, health care and income opportunities, after fleeing the conflict in Rakhine state in Myanmar in 2017.
Caritas Australia has confirmed with Caritas Bangladesh that Jamila and Halima from Project Compassion 2021 are safe.

However, Jamila, Halima and other Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar will be affected by the long-term impacts of the fires, as they destroyed health centres, learning centres and other key infrastructure. There will be increased challenges in housing and supporting the Rohingya community in the camps, and there are concerns about an outbreak of COVID-19, as organisations struggle to house 45,000 people in already overcrowded camps.

Caritas Bangladesh is working with other aid organisations and emergency services to assess damage and provide immediate support, including distributing emergency shelter kits.

As the response continues, Caritas Bangladesh will focus on providing non-food items and shelter support to those affected by the fire.
One of the key concerns is the loss of personal documentation in the fires, as well as the vulnerability of the Rohingya to potential theft, harassment and exploitation.

“This fire has had a huge impact on a group of people who have already experienced conflict and displacement, as well as several years of living in cramped conditions in the camps,” said Bernice Sarpong, Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Program Coordinator for Asia.

 “A large number of shelters and key infrastructure need to be rebuilt and, in the meantime, this means that more people will go without a safe place to live or important services.” 

“It’s vital that we work together, not just with other aid organisations but also the Rohingya community, to rebuild and recover as quickly as possible. Some members of the Rohingya community have already been key to the relief effort, including helping people to safety, supporting the fire response and supporting aid organisations on the ground.”

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