Large Fire Breaks Out in Rohingya Refugee Camp

Large Fire Breaks Out in Rohingya Refugee Camp
UNICEF/Rashad Wajahat Lateef, source: UN News, 2022

13-01-2021

Gianpaolo Mascaro

Bangladesh and Human Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

COX’S BAZAR (9 January 2022) - On Sunday, 9th January, a violent fire hit Camp 16, a Rohingya refugee camp situated in Cox’s Bazar, a district in south-eastern Bangladesh where roughly one million Rohingya fled from neighbouring Myanmar. The Bangladeshi emergency forces managed to extinguish the fire, whose cause has not been identified yet. Fortunately, no deaths have been reported so far, whereas two people got injured in the aftermath of the blaze. This tragic event has not been an isolated case, as another blaze had already occurred the 2nd of January in another Cox’s Bazar refugee camp. Also on that occasion there were no fatalities, but the incident led to the destruction of the Severe Acute Respiratory Infection and Isolation and Treatment Center. It goes without saying that the interruption of the services provided by this center has exposed camp residents to even more perils related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, last March another fire had torn through Cox’s Bazar, killing at least 15 refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) underscored how the precarious living conditions characterising the camps facilitate the explosion of massive fires in a rapid succession, given the almost absolute dearth of security measures adopted. 

Despite the absence of casualties, the fire devastated a large part of the camp, causing grave damages to several houses and other objects indispensable to survival, which now refugees do not have access to. In light of this, the officer-in-charge for IOM Bangladesh Nusrath Ghazzali proclaimed the prompt commitment, in coordination with the other humanitarian actors working in the territory, to make sure that all those affected by the blaze are provided with adequate shelter and healthcare services, as well as with sufficient food and potable water. In line with this statement, the World Food Programme (WFP) has started since Monday to distribute hot meals to families who have lost access to cooking infrastructures, covering approximately 2,200 camp residents.

It is surely fundamental and commendable to furnish urgent aid to respond to the immediate needs of people hit by these incidences, but the steadily increasing number of blazes taking place in Cox’s Bazar throughout the last months have shed light on the importance for the international community to focus on medium and long-term measures to implement, in order to ensure that camp residents’ security does not remain a mere chimera in the future.

Sources and Further Reading:

UN News, 10 January 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/01/1109432;

CNN, 10 January 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/09/asia/fire-rohingya-refugee-bangladesh-intl-hnk/index.html.