Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

KSrelief Chief Visits Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh: Saudis Will Help IOM to Deliver Vital Aid During Monsoon

Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah, Head of Ksrelief, handing out rice to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar today. Credit: IOM

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Apr 11 2018 - The Supervisor General of Ksrelief – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre – Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah, today (11/04) visited IOM’s relief operations for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

The visit included an inspection of a new logistics base, funded by the Saudi foundation, which will play a key role in getting vital aid to the refugees during the difficult and dangerous conditions expected during the upcoming monsoon season.

The log-base at Nhilla will be a hub for IOM’s distribution of aid to refugees in the southern part of Cox’s Bazar during the wet season, when mud and landslides are expected to create severe access challenges across the entire district. The hub will guarantee aid deliveries remote areas even if established distribution points further north are cut off.

Around 900,000 Rohingya refugees are now sheltering in Cox’s Bazar and are almost entirely reliant on aid. Most arrived after fleeing extreme violence in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine State that began in August 2017.

IOM, partner aid agencies and the government of Bangladesh are involved in a massive joint effort to develop and upgrade access and improve and ready supply systems before the bad weather hits, perhaps as early as next month.

During his visit, Dr Al Rabeeah also witnessed a WFP distribution of rice – some of 550 MT donated by KSrelief – together with non-food items, including blankets, mattresses and plastic buckets, also donated by his agency.

“I am happy to be at Kutupalang and Balukhali refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar witnessing the joint work of IOM and Ksrelief and IOM’s support to the Rohingya minority. Our work together is a model of joint compassion for those in need and an example of many other excellent partner projects globally, ” said Dr Al Rabeeah, who was an internationally acclaimed surgeon and health expert before joining KSrelief.

KSrelief has currently provided over USD 4.2 million to fund IOM’s shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene support for Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis living in the Cox’s Bazar District.

Shortly after the beginning of the crisis, in September 2017, KSrelief also organized an airlift of aid into Cox’s Bazar, which IOM distributed. It included rice, blankets, mattresses and water purification tablets.

IOM and other agencies have worked with the government of Bangladesh to significantly improve conditions in the camps since those early days, but the arrival of the monsoon will bring new dangers and fresh misery for the refugees and the local community. Work is urgently underway to improve shelters, re-locate those most at risk and build resilience among those who will be affected.

Key shelter and other aid items are being stockpiled by IOM to be distributed when the monsoon and cyclone seasons begin. This includes pipeline agreements with partners to ensure that the whole humanitarian community is well stocked with essential aid like tarpaulins.

To help restore access to the refugees quickly in the event of landslides and blocked roads, IOM is working alongside WFP and UNHCR to preposition machinery in key locations for disaster response operations to enable humanitarian access and clear drains and waterways to reduce the risk of flooding.

Work also continues to improve roads and drainage to prevent further erosion on the bare hilly slopes, which were cleared of vegetation during the initial influx by refugees desperate to find a place to put up shelters.

In recent weeks, IOM has provided 22,500 families with shelter-upgrade kits as part of a rollout to help 120,000 households improve and strengthen their living quarters. In addition, 33,550 households have received community training on shelter upgrades and disaster risk reduction. More than 550 families deemed most at risk have already been relocated to safer areas with that number set to increase significantly over the coming weeks, as new sites are prepared.

As well as observing IOM’s work to support the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Balukhali/Kutupalong makeshift settlement, which is now one of the biggest refugee camps in the world, the KSrelief delegation will also visit medical facilities supporting the refugees and the local community.

After visiting a Malaysian-run hospital in the settlement, they will travel to Cox’s Bazar general hospital. IOM medical staff refer refugees and local people to this hospital for specialist treatment if it is not available any of IOM’s 12 medical clinics in the district.

“This visit comes at a vital time for the humanitarian response to this crisis, as we prepare for the impending monsoon and cyclone seasons,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, who accompanied the KSrelief delegation.

“We are grateful to KSrelief for their support in Cox’s Bazar and around the world and we appreciate this strong partnership. But we are still operating with funding shortfalls, notably in site management and improvement, alternative fuel supplies and shelter. All of these are essential, especially in response to the expected extreme weather over the next few months. Our main priority as always is to save lives,” he added.

In addition to funding IOM’s humanitarian operations in Bangladesh, KSrelief also funds IOM projects in Myanmar, Yemen, Somalia and Greece.

For more information, please contact Fiona MacGregor at IOM Cox’s Bazar, Tel: +8801733335221, Email: mailto:fmacgregor@iom.int

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