Rohingyas in Bangladesh camps complain of water crisis

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 01:03, Apr 25,2020 | Updated: 17:47, Apr 25,2020


Rohingyas are suffering from drinking water crisis in camps at Ukhia and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar amid spread of the novel coronavirus, Rohingya community leaders alleged.

Officials working with the government and international agencies for Rohingyas said that dry season caused the water crisis but food distribution continued amid shortage of manpower due to the coronavirus scenario.

On March 28, the United Nations system in Bangladesh issued a release assuring its full support to the measures taken by Bangladesh to slow the spread of COVID-19 and urging everyone to comply with the measures, both national and international.

Rohingya community leaders, however, were compiling the list of their community members who were yet to receive the ration or relief.

The office of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner in Cox’s Bazar said there was no shortage of food but food supply was disrupted in certain cases due to the shutdown enforced from March 25.

The officials said the UN’s World Food Programme has two types of food assistance in the Rohingya camps, in-kind and e-voucher. For in-kind, they distributed rice, lentils, and oil which are procured by WFP. For e-vouchers, WFP works with local retailers who provide food in WFP e-voucher outlets, which can be purchased by Rohingyas with their prepaid WFP Assistance Cards.

Around 80 per cent receive food via e-vouchers and the rest via in-kind distributions, camp officials said.

For in-kind distributions, WFP already had a contingency stock of food as parts of its emergency preparedness plan, which is enough to feed refugees for at least one month and this stock is being doubled with food procured in Bangladesh.

Retailers have enough stock to supply the e-voucher stores for two months and at this stage, the local market is sufficient to sustain the Rohingyas.

Inter-Sector Coordination Group in their internal report on Thursday stated that the main challenges were in-country transportation of the food, however WFP was working with suppliers, the government of Bangladesh, and the army to ensure that this could continue smoothly.

An official at RRRC said there were a few reports of food shortage but the authorities immediately managed it.

‘It happened as we decided to distribute food once in a month instead of twice a month,’ the official said, adding, ‘We had to distribute the food by maintaining physical distancing and that sometime delayed distribution’.

Mostafa Kamal, the chairman at camp 24, compiled a separate list of his community people who were yet to receive food.

He said a number of camps mostly in Teknaf, were facing shortage of drinking water amid the spread of COVID-19.

Like Kamal, the youth camp leader Sawyedullah of Camp-15 said that the water crisis was reported at different camps including at Jamtali camp and camps 5, 6 and 7 in Kutupalang and camp 14.

The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Mahbub Alam Talukder said that this was not an acute crisis, rather the authorities rationalised the water supply as water surface went down in the dry season.

He said they already arranged for an alternative water supply source with the help of the Department of Public Health Engineering.  

The RRRC said that the total population of aid workers saw a 20 per cent drop as only emergency services were on in the camps.

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