On Thursday morning, two days after the fire broke out, several Rohingya families were sitting on the rubble in the western part of the Balukhali-6 refugee camp. These families got cooked food at noon yesterday but did not get it at night. No one had breakfast. Some are cooking rice for the children. However, the water crisis has made that cooking difficult. Rohingya women and children have to fetch drinking water from a few kilometers away.
Some Rohingyas who spent sleepless nights said there was an acute shortage of drinking water. The tube wells of the camp have been burnt down and become unusable. Women and children are living inhumane lives due to burning of bathrooms and latrines.
Balukhali market is about 60 km away from Cox’s Bazar city. The distance from this market to Balukhali-6 camp to the west is at least seven kilometers. You have to walk a long way to this camp.
In the afternoon of March 22, more than 10,000 houses in the Balukhali camp and four other refugee camps in the vicinity were burnt to ashes. At least 75,000 Rohingya refugees have become homeless. At least 11 Rohingya have been killed in the blaze, with more than 400 missing.
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and its partner agencies are distributing khichuri to 80,000 displaced and affected Rohingya. “We are providing food aid to the victims as soon as possible,” said Sheila Gradem, senior emergency coordinator at WFP Cox’s Bazar.
Ukhia Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Nizam Uddin Ahmed said cooked food was being distributed to 72,000 Rohingyas twice a day. 615 Bangladeshis from 26 local families of Ukhia affected by the fire are also being given 26 types of relief aid including 30 kg of rice.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan visited the Rohingya camp yesterday afternoon. He distributed clothing among the victims. Assuring the firefighters of Myanmar to be by their side, he said, “Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given you shelter, she is by your side.” The government is working to get you back to where you were. ‘
UNO Nizam Uddin said that infrastructure materials for building houses for Rohingyas are also being provided.
This morning I visited Balukhali-6 camp and saw thousands of Rohingyas under the open sky. The picture of Balukhali Camp No. 9 and 11 is similar. Hundreds of Rohingya families are still under the open sky. Ignoring the scorching heat, some are building houses with bamboo and triplets. Red Crescent volunteers are constructing green tents.
Moniruzzaman, a volunteer, said more than 600 tents were to be set up for the victims. In the last two days, about 96 tents have been set up in the camp. However, no Rohingya family was kept there. After hundreds of more tents are set up, the affected Rohingya families will be relocated to tents.
Chenowara Begum, 35, said, “No one slept for the last three nights (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). The first two days I was under a tree in the woods next door. I came back yesterday afternoon, but couldn’t find the triple, bamboo to build the house. I somehow spent two days spreading clothes. ‘
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained. An eight-member inquiry committee headed by Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Shah Rezwan Hayat has been formed. The committee has also started an investigation.
Kulsuma Begum (45) of Balukhali-6 camp said, ‘The fire started burning around 3 pm. Then I came out of the house and saw people (Rohingya) running towards it. Suddenly after 10-15 minutes another place (Camp-9) was seen on fire. In this way, it seems that the fire is planned to burn for a while. ‘
Nabi Hossain, 45, husband of Chenowara Begum, said, “When the fire broke out, the wind speed was high. It was very hot. Camp houses made of bamboo and triple fitted together. If a fire breaks out in a house, it spreads quickly. ‘
On August 25, 2016, eight lakh Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after being tortured during a military operation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Before that there were several lakhs more in Bangladesh. At present, the number of Rohingyas registered in 34 asylum camps in Ukhia and Teknaf is 1.5 million. Of these, about 9 lakh Rohingyas live in 23 shelters in Ukhia.