Here at UKIM, we work extensively with Rohingya Muslims who have been forced to flee their homes and cross into Bangladesh. There are thought to be more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, the majority of whom are living in improvised, overcrowded camps that are increasingly incompatible with healthy human life.
As winter rolls around, the threats facing Rohingya Muslims living in the camps are only amplified, leaving them even more exposed and in need of aid assistance. Using your generous donations, we provide essential charity in Bangladesh through our Rohingya appeal, but we still need help so we can help keep these vulnerable people warm this winter.
Why is Winter Dangerous for Rohingya Refugees?
Winter in Bangladesh isn’t as cold as it is in the UK, but nightly temperatures can fall to as low as 3˚c. For most of us, we’d be putting our heating on and wrapping up in lots of warm layers to ward off the bitter temperatures, but the Rohingya Muslims don’t have this option. This, paired with poor living conditions, makes winter one of the deadliest seasons.
Cox’s Bazar bears the brunt of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, with more than 900,000 people living in the Kutupalong camp. It is the world’s largest refugee camp, but with just under a million residents, it’s become more of a refugee city.
With so many people and countless charity agencies working to distribute aid, you might be under the impression that life in the camp is far from bad, but this isn’t the case. Despite best efforts, there simply aren’t enough resources to go around, meaning a lot of people live in simple tents and flimsy shelters that are barely suitable for animals, let alone vulnerable human beings. To make matters worse, entire families often live in one room. Neighbours are barely an outstretched arm away, and entire communities share the same sanitation facilities.
A fire tore through the camp in March 2021, burning over 10,000 shelters. This has resulted in over 45,000 people being displaced within the camp, with 15 lives lost, over 560 injuries, and more than 400 people going missing. In what is already one of the most densely populated areas on Earth, the blaze has only increased the hardship of those in the camp. People who had already lost everything have once again lost the little they had, and with so many affected, there will undoubtedly be people left without any shelter for winter. Given that winter follows the rainy season and most of the camp is built on steep hillsides and muddy terrain, thousands enter winter without a home because it has been washed away by the natural weather pattern of Bangladesh.
Those who do have a tent or improvised housing won’t fare much better. There is no central heating – the only warmth and protection from the misty fog, dense cloud, and harsh winter weather usually comes in the form of a sheet of tarpaulin. This is simply not good enough, but it’s better than having nothing at all.