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Refugee Camp in Bangladesh Hit by Storm

on July 8, 2011

Heavy rains and high winds have stuck an unofficial refugee camp in Bangladesh, destroying makeshift shacks and other residences. Life in the camp before the disaster was precarious—external aid is limited and the residents are forced to fend for themselves. A vulnerable population such as this will take a long time to recover, as many people there may not have the resources to rebuild.

About 28,000 Burmese ethnic Rohingya live in the unofficial Kutapolong camp, having fled persecution at home. The government of Bangladesh refuses to recognize them as refugees and has hampered international assistance efforts, which has exacerbated the public health crisis there.

PHR investigators documented conditions in Kutapolong camp in 2010. They found almost no water and sanitation infrastructure and high rates of child malnutrition and diarrhea. The camp residents reported harassment and arrest from local authorities when they left the camp, thus limiting their ability to find work and to buy food. One aid worker called the camp “an open-air prison.”

By blocking aid, the government of Bangladesh is violating right to heath of these people. This is a vulnerable population that needs outside help. The government of Bangladesh should officially recognize the residents as refugees and accept offers of international assistance.

Places: Bangladesh, Burma