Islamic Relief ramps up efforts to help families left homeless after devastating fire in Bangladesh
Image by Team Saiful Arakani/BBC
UK based charity Islamic Relief is preparing to respond to a huge fire in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh that has destroyed shelters and left around 12,000 people homeless.
According to reports, the fire began around 2.40pm on Sunday afternoon at Camp 11. Many such fire incidents have occurred in the recent past as people live in extremely cramped conditions under bamboo-and-tarpaulin shelters that are decrepit.
The Guardian has reported that according to a Bangladesh defence ministry report released last month, between January 2021 and December 2022, there were 222 fire incidents in the Rohingya camps, 60 of these were cases of arson.
Many essential services such as health facilities, water networks, women’s centres, at least 20 learning centres and up to 35 small mosques have also been destroyed in the blaze. Homeless families are now taking shelter in neighbour’s tents or sleeping outside.
More than 1 million Rohingya people who have fled Myanmar have taken refuge in Cox’s Bazar in recent years, with most living in overcrowded and extremely basic conditions in makeshift shelters made of bamboo and flimsy canvas.
Islamic Relief teams on the ground are currently participating in joint assessments with other agencies, and are mobilising aid to help people begin rebuilding their homes as well as water and sanitation facilities such as latrines and bathing cubicles.
Golam Motasim Billah, Islamic Relief’s Acting Country Director in Bangladesh, says, “The fire ripped through the densely packed camp and has completely destroyed thousands of shelters. People have lost their homes and everything they owned has been burnt to ashes. Many critical services like education and health facilities, and numerous community mosques, have been lost.
“We are committed to help, but people here need much more long-term support. Fires keep happening in Cox’s Bazar and it is vital that more is done to improve the condition of the camps and shelters to keep people safe.”