What's happening

  • The IRC is shocked by the Jan. 9 fire in the Cox’s Bazar Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
  • The fire destroyed shelters and vital infrastructure and left around 5,000 people homeless.
  • Our teams are on the ground providing emergency support to those affected by the blaze.
Country facts
  • Total population: 163 million
  • People displaced by crisis: Almost 1 million Rohingya refugees
  • Rank in Humanitarian Development Index : 139 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Bangladesh: 2018
  • People assisted: 555,424

Crisis briefing

After fleeing shocking violence in Myanmar, nearly 1 million Rohingya are now living just across the border in Bangladesh in the world’s biggest refugee camp. Despite the welcome they have received, many are now struggling to imagine a future for themselves.

What caused the current crisis in Bangladesh?

Since 2012, violence against minority Muslims in Myanmar has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Most are Rohingya, now the world’s largest stateless people. In 2017 alone, over 650,000 fled to Bangladesh. The scale of the displacement has created dangerously overcrowded refugee camps where basic services are stretched beyond their limits.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Bangladesh?

The nearly one million refugees in Cox’s Bazar are living in overcrowded shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulins, many erected on deforested hillsides prone to landslides. These flimsy structures are not able to withstand the heavy rains of the monsoon season, which lasts from May to September.

While Bangladesh is well versed in responding to natural disasters, its capacity is strained by the added burden of hosting nearly one million additional people. With each heavy monsoon the Rohingya face the risk of outbreaks of diphtheria and cholera, as well as emergency levels of malnutrition. Monsoon flooding exacerbates these problems as latrines flood and water sources are contaminated: Dengue fever, hepatitis and diarrhea could sweep through the camps.

Lifesaving aid is urgently needed to assist the Rohingya. Aid organisations do not have adequate resources: Humanitarian partners must scale up their capacity quickly.

What more needs to be done?

The IRC works in Bangladesh to protect and promote the rights and serve the needs of the most vulnerable through women and children’s health and protection services, and effective response to the needs of people affected by conflict, disaster and poverty. Read our Bangladesh strategy action plan.