Rohingya Refugee Camp: COVID-19 and the Start of Cyclone Season Create New Risks

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A man covers himself with a plastic sheet and walks in the rain ahead of Cyclone Amphan landfall in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, May 20, 2020. (AP Photo)

There is mounting concern for Rohingya refugee families living in the camp near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, with new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Adding to this, the cyclone season has just started. Cyclone Amphan, the strongest storm on record in the Bay of Bengal, has torn a destructive path across India and Bangladesh with winds of up to 90km/hour and flood levels of up to 5.8 feet, damaging 300 shelters in the camps, completely destroying 60 of them.

Although Amphan did not pass directly over the camp, the Rohingya refugees await each cyclone season with worry. No cyclone in the region leaves their camps without some kind of devastation. The severe weather associated with Amphan has left a wake of destruction — high water levels, damaged latrines, and concerns about safe drinking water make an already challenging situation even more hazardous.

But World Renew is there with our partners – helping.

We continue to provide assistance to vulnerable Rohingya refugee families.

India and Bangladesh have evacuated two million people from coastal areas, with 7.9 million people still exposed to Cyclone Amphan’s winds. While the refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar was not in the cyclone’s direct path, flooding, landslides, and the damaged shelters have significantly increased risks to workers and refugees in the camp.

Another serious concern is that severe weather and flooding will leave Rohingya families even more vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19. As Amphan brings heavy rainfall and flooding in the camp, deteriorating living conditions could create additional health risks for over 1 million refugees already living in a crowded camp where physical distancing is virtually impossible.

Providing vital food supplies to families is a key part of World Renew’s response among the Rohingya.

As of May 11, World Renew restarted its activities in the camps after pausing in early April to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Food voucher distributions to families will resume in June and will be carried out safely with strict precautions in place.

World Renew staff and partners are currently coordinating response efforts with the UN and local government structures as well as other NGOs. We lift up our hearts in prayer for the Rohingya people who have already suffered much — extreme violence in their home country of Myanmar — and who now face new threats brought by the pandemic and the start of the cyclone season.

As our Director of International Disaster Response, Ken Kim, says, “Our history as an organization is tied to our Christian call to serve people in crisis. Join us to love our refugee neighbors like the Rohingya — just as Christ taught us.”

Please give today to support World Renew’s International Response, equipping us to bring food to Rohingya and other refugee families.

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