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Water and sanitation crisis unfolds in Rohingya camps

Most of the tube wells in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps are out of order as the underground water level has been rapidly depleted in most places.

The state of sanitation is also in shambles, with foul stench spreading from the camps due to inadequate sewage management.

However, the local administration is blaming the situation on unplanned digging of tube wells and lack of toilets.

Around 1.2 million Rohingya men, women and children are living in 12 camps in Teknaf and Ukhiya. They have spread to other areas as the 3,000 acres of forestland allocated by the government was not able to shelter them all.

Most of these Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since late August last year escaping the atrocities unleashed by the security forces there.

A number of international donor agencies and NGOs, including government and non-governmental organizations, are providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees. Along with relief material, the refugees are receiving food, housing, medicine and other facilities.

A Rohingya refugee carries water at Unchiparang refugee camp, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on January 11, 2018REUTERS

As part of the relief efforts, tube wells were installed at the camps for pure drinking water and sanitation facilities were arranged.

Mohammad Lokman, a resident of Kutupalong Modhur Chora Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhia said that the tube-wells were set up in an unplanned manner.

“There is more than one tube well in some places while many other parts have none. This is causing huge suffering for the refugees.

“Most of the tube wells are out of order. The tanks of many toilets have become full as they are not deep, forcing the refugees to answer nature’s call in the open,” he said.

Minara Begum, a resident of Block D of Balukhali Rohingya camp, said the situation was the same there.

“The sanitation is very bad. There is stench everywhere, which is making it very difficult to stay in the camp. The situation is particularly bad as most of the septic tanks have become full,” she said.

Mohammed Jalil, an elderly Rohingya refugee in Ukhiya’s Thaingkhali Tajunirma camp, said: “The camp was all muddy during the rainy season. Now, in the dry season, it is overflowing with sewage water.

“There is water stagnation in some parts, as the area is too cramped. In some places, there are no tube wells. Residents of these parts are forced to travel to other parts of the camps to collect water,” he said.

Ukhiya’s Upazila Executive Officer (UNO) Md Nikaruzzaman said the installation of tube wells and sanitary system were done in an unplanned manner at the beginning as it was difficult to support the large number of the refugees.

“It was very difficult for us to arrange proper sanitation facilities and set up tube wells. Also, the tube wells were set up during the rainy season when the groundwater level was high. But the water level has now dropped in the dry season,” he said.

Abul Kalam, refugee relief and repatriation commissioner of Cox’s Bazar, said they were pulling out the out of order tube wells and installing deep tube wells in those areas.

He also said that steps were being taken to build new toilets and sewage treatment facilities at the camps

(c) 2018 Dhaka Tribune

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