Thousands of Rohingya refugees began rebuilding their makeshift homes on March 25, after a fire ripped through a Bangladeshi refugee camp where they were living earlier this week, killing at least 11.
The March 22 blaze left 339 missing, according to the United Nations, with tens of thousands left without shelter in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar district, where more than a million Rohingya live after fleeing persecution in their native Myanmar.
On March 25, families, left homeless by the fire, built shelters using tarpaulin, ropes and bamboo provided by aid groups.
With critical infrastructure including medical facilities and sanitation systems destroyed, fears are rising about the spread of disease.
“We have to act quickly to rebuild not only homes, but the entire infrastructure of damaged areas,” said Snigdha Chakraborty, Bangladesh country manager of aid agency Catholic Relief Services.
“Rebuilding latrines, wells and bathing spaces is crucial to saving lives and preventing disease.
Despite the efforts, many were still without shelter four days on from the fire, in rising heat and humidity.
“Everything has gone,” said Mohammed Salam, a 50-year-old refugee. “I, my wife and my six sons, are still sleeping under the sky. I hope I’ll get a tent today.”
The blaze is the latest trauma for many of the refugees, who fled from their homes in western Myanmar when the military there launched an offensive against Rohingya insurgents in 2017.
Citing the overcrowding in the camps thrown up across deforested hills, Bangladesh has been trying to move 100,000 Rohingya to a remote, flood-prone Bay of Bengal island, despite opposition from aid groups and the reluctance of many Rohingya.