The Rohingya Muslims living in Camp 11 at Balukhali, just outside Cox’s Bazar, Fire in Bangladesh, were already some of the most dispossessed people on earth.
Burned out of their villages by Myanmar’s army, in what the United States has called a campaign of genocide, they and many other Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. There, more than a million live in overcrowded refugee camps so miserable that many have taken to the sea in makeshift boats, with hundreds lost, and presumed drowned, in the treacherous Bay of Bengal.
This week, for thousands of Camp 11 residents, the misery deepened. About 2,000 makeshift settlements — mostly assembled from bamboo and blue plastic tarpaulins — were destroyed in a fire that tore through the camp on Sunday night, leaving 12,000 refugees scrambling for shelter.
Samuel Falsis, an official with the International Organization for Migration who is based in Bangladesh, said that “many of them lost every possession that they had.”
No deaths were reported in the fire, which also destroyed small schools, a food distribution center, and latrines. About half of those left homeless were estimated to be children, according to UNICEF.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. By Tuesday, more bamboo and tarpaulins had been brought into the camp, to build new shelters for people crowding under poles and lean-tos.
The camps, rife with malnutrition and disease, have been struck by deadlier incidents in recent years, including flash floods and other fires. The Rohingyas’ plight has become direr the longer they stay in Bangladesh, just across the border from Rakhine State in Myanmar, where all but the youngest of them were born.
Because Fire in Bangladesh does not recognize them as citizens, they are unable to earn money inside or outside the camps. And the international aid budget that supports them has been squeezed tighter. Bangladesh’s government has urged donor countries to give more, fearing unrest in the area if refugees leave the camps to seek food.
“Over the last one and a half years, facilities in the Rohingya camp have significantly declined,” said Mohammad Jamal,
a 27-year-old Rohingya activist who lives in a camp in Cox’s Bazar. “Each Rohingya over the age of 6 months used to receive $12 per month” in vouchers for food, he said.
That monthly allowance from the World Food Program was already insufficient to feed everyone, Mr. Jamal said. At the start of this month, that $12 was cut to $10.
“With other critical services already dwindling, the repercussions of the ration cut — even if just two dollars — will be dire,” Domenico Scalpelli, the World Food Program’s country director in Bangladesh, said in a statement. World News
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