Mercy Corps Responds to Early Monsoons, Funding Shortfalls for Rohingya and Bangladeshis

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Millions at risk from heavy rains and winds

The most important thing is to provide the Rohingya and the host communities access to safe water, make the newest structures safe and secure and build resilience for the coming months.

In response to the start of Bangladesh’s monsoon season and the first heavy rains, the global organization Mercy Corps is helping Rohingya people from Myanmar and Bangladeshis in host communities in Cox’s Bazar access clean water and reinforce their shelters against mudslides and flooding.

As part of this effort, Mercy Corps is supporting partner organizations in Bangladesh in drilling 800-foot, hand-pumped wells to draw safe drinking water and avoid contamination from overflowing latrines in camps and host communities. It is also supporting youth groups as they reinforce temporary structures while partner organizations move people to higher ground less prone to flooding and mudslides, which have already caused at least one death and injured others in the camps.

“All the latrines are already full, and when the rains come, they will contaminate shallow wells,” says Mercy Corps’ Thierry Lecoq, Bangladesh Team Leader for the agency's Strategic Response & Global Emergencies unit. “Right now, you have on average one latrine for about 50 people; it should be one per 20. When latrines overflow, the risk of contracting and spreading waterborne illnesses will be much, much greater.”

Since violence broke out in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State in August 2017, almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh. In just three months last year, the population there doubled, placing tremendous strain on the host communities and Bangladesh as a whole. UNICEF estimates at least 1.3 million Rohingya—among them at least 703,000 children—and the Bangladeshis hosting them are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

Adding to those challenges, Lecoq says it will be difficult for international NGOs to access the camps. And there has been a noted shortfall in international funding for the crisis for 2018. Out of $950.8 million the United Nations has requested to address the crisis, only 16.5 percent ($157.1 million) has been funded.

Even before the monsoons, Rohingya needed some 16 million liters of safe water every day, more than 100,000 emergency shelters and 50,000 latrines. Given the monsoons and their high winds, those numbers are expected to rise.

“This may be the first monsoon for some people in Cox’s Bazar, but it won’t be the last,” says Lecoq. “The most important thing is to provide the Rohingya and the host communities access to safe water, make the newest structures safe and secure and build resilience for the coming months.”

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Chris Allbritton
Mercy Corps
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