Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, May 12, 2023 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that Cyclone Mocha is set to strike Cox's Bazar refugee camp, home to over one million Rohingya refugees.
The cyclone's expected landfall this weekend could cause severe damage. Still reeling from a devastating fire in March that destroyed more than 2,600 shelters and critical infrastructure, over 850,000 refugees risk losing their homes and livelihoods. Strong wind, heavy rains, and subsequent flash floods and mudslides could destroy shelters, community centers, and health clinics, depriving thousands of essential services and humanitarian aid. Host communities, including Teknaf, Kutubdia, Saint Martin's Island, and nearby areas, may also be heavily affected.
In preparation, more than 3,000 Rohingya refugees have been trained to respond to flooding and mudslides. Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is scaling up its emergency response in Cox's Bazar. Three mobile medical teams will be deployed to remote areas in the camps and communities to provide emergency medical treatment. Additionally, a Mobile Protection Unit designed for emergency settings will offer protection services to vulnerable groups such as women, girls, the elderly, and those with disabilities.
Hasina Rahman, IRC Bangladesh Director, said,
“Time and again, we have seen the devastating impact of extreme weather events in Cox’s Bazar. Since 2017, countless shelters, schools, health clinics and safe spaces for survivors of Gender-Based Violence have been decimated as a result of floods and mudslides, as well as preventable tragedies such as the fire in March this year.
“As a low-lying country with major cities in coastal areas, Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change, which makes annual weather events - such as cyclones - more intense and frequent. The impacts - loss of life, destroyed crops, challenges to livelihoods, damage to homes and infrastructure - are often borne by the people and communities who have contributed least to the climate crisis: Bangladesh, for example, emits less than 1% of global CO2 emissions. They are unable to cope with continued weather shocks without support that addresses the effects of climate change, such as early warning systems, anticipatory action, improving infrastructure to protect against flooding, and investment into climate adaptation.
“It is crucial to fortify shelters and critical infrastructure against natural disasters. This involves using durable construction materials to strengthen community facilities like child-friendly spaces, learning facilities, and mosques, which serve as safe points during emergencies. Additionally, the Government of Bangladesh needs to develop an inclusive evacuation plan in collaboration with UN agencies, humanitarian organisations, and the refugee and host communities. The plan should prioritise access to emergency shelters, ensuring family unity, and the protection of vulnerable groups, including women, children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.”
The IRC began responding to the Rohingya crisis in August 2017 and launched its response officially in March 2018. With over 400 staff in Bangladesh and operating across 27 camps across the district, our teams provide essential healthcare to the host community as well as Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar, as well as reproductive and maternal healthcare, child protection, education, prevention and response to Gender-Based Violence, and Emergency Disaster Risk Reduction (EDRR).