The United Nations migration agency and its partners are rushing to build roads in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar to improve humanitarian access to hilly terrain, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have settled in makeshift camps.
Almost 600000 Rohingya refugees have sought safety in Bangladesh in the past two months. The numbers show no sign of slowing down – 40000 people crossed the border from Myanmar in the past two weeks in an indication of continuing violence in Rakhine.
The sites where the Rohingyas have settled are desperately overcrowded and located on inhospitable terrain with insufficient drainage and little or no road access, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday.
The few roads that exist are impossibly congested, making it extremely difficult to reach refugees with the support and services they need.
IOM is responsible for coordinating site management at a site now home to an estimated 423,000 refugees.
IOM officials said that people hike for hours under the scorching sun, often carrying heavy loads from distribution points, to reach their shelters. Steep hills and dangerous paths mean that children, the elderly and people with disabilities are often unable to move around the site.
IOM is currently working on six other projects, providing more access from main roads outside the sites, and inside the sites. It is also building five bridges, which will allow people and vehicles to cross canals and streams in different areas of the sites.
The agency is also working to mitigate the threat of landslides on the newly de-forested land where many of the shelters perch on steep hillsides.
IOM teams have been distributing bags that the refugees can fill with soil and use to create retaining walls and steps. These can also be used to raise shelters off mud floors, helping to keep them dry, especially when flash floods occur.
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