Concern helps refugees after massive blaze leaves 50,000 homeless in Bangladesh camp

Homes destroyed by fire in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh
Homes destroyed by fire in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh

Concern Worldwide is providing emergency support to victims of the huge blaze in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh.

50,000 people - almost the population of Waterford city- were forced to flee the flames on Monday. Fifteen people are confirmed dead while at least 400 more remain missing. More than 10,000 homes were destroyed.

Cox’s Bazaar is home to one million Rohingya people who fled violence in neighbouring Myanmar in 2017.

“This is a tragedy that even the most resilient people will find hard to bear,” said Heather Macey, Concern’s Emergency Response Director in Cox’s Bazaar.

“The needs are vast; drinking water, food and shelter are the priority. Protection and safety concerns including reuniting families and supporting lost children. Toilets and water points are destroyed and need to be restored as soon as possible. Temporary shelter is needed now but with the monsoon season due in the next few weeks a more permanent solution is needed quickly.”

Concern, with national partner SARPV have provided food, water, shelter and psychosocial support and will continue to provide assistance in the coming days and weeks to the most vulnerable.

Ms Macey said resilience and kindness has been shown by many in the Rohingya community, among them a nine-year-old girl who salvaged a water jar from her home and spent the entire day fetching water from an undamaged water pump, walking back to the fire affected area and offering the water to people as they passed by. 

“We were speaking to survivors and one elderly woman, Hasina came up behind me with the only possession she had left – her umbrella – and insisted on holding it over us for shade from the sun. She took us to meet her family; three elderly relatives, her daughter, a new born granddaughter, and three other grandchildren in the embers of what was once their home. They were all huddled under a blanket for shade from the sun.”

The fire on Monday was the third blaze to hit the camp in four days, though they caused minor damage. 

Concern has been working in Bangladesh since 1972.

Its response to the Rohingya crisis includes providing lifesaving assistance to children under five years, and pregnant and lactating women to reduce malnutrition and improve health and well-being.

Families are supported in self-reliance activities such as guidance on how to grow their own crops in small spaces so as improve access to fresh food, diversify their diet and to generate income.

COVID-19 has seen the Concern team play an instrumental role in combating the virus in the densely populated camp through awareness campaigns, provision of handwashing stations, support in mask production and distribution of PPE for health monitoring posts.

For media queries contact Eilis Staunton, Media Relations officer at eilis.staunton@concern.net or 085 872 0720. 

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