Life as a refugee

Rohingya in Bangladesh: The world's largest refugee camp

In southern Bangladesh, more than 920,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have taken refuge near the city of Cox's Bazar, in an area now known as the "world's largest refugee camp". Here, residents live with the risk of disease outbreaks, fire, monsoon rains, and no prospect of returning home.

Cox's Bazar District is home to 920,000 Rohingya

Cox's Bazar District is home to 920,000 Rohingya

In autumn 2017, some 700,000 Rohingya fled a wave of violence and persecution in Myanmar. They fled to Cox's Bazar District in neighbouring Bangladesh. Here they settled in an area where many Rohingya had sought refuge before them.

Many brought with them only the clothes they were wearing when their homes and villages were attacked, destroyed, and set on fire.

Despite being one of the world's most densely populated countries, Bangladesh today hosts the world's largest - and still growing - refugee settlement. Here, more than 30 camps have now become home to 920,000 Rohingya.

It has been five years since the last mass exodus from Myanmar. But the refugee Rohingya still face no prospect of returning home.

Facts about Cox's Bazar

Facts about the Rohingya crisis

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority in Myanmar. They are predominantly Muslim, while the majority in the country are Buddhist. The Rohingya are mainly from Rakhine State in northern Myanmar. But a wave of ethnic violence has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they primarily live in the Cox's Bazar District.

How the Rohingya crisis started

In 1982, Myanmar's Rohingya were denied citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless. Since then, the group has been repeatedly subjected to violence and persecution, and denied basic rights. The largest exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar began in late summer 2017. Here, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in a matter of months.

Today, more than 920,000 Rohingya live in the Cox's Bazar District of Bangladesh. The large influx of refugees means that some 444,000 local residents of the host community are now also in need of humanitarian assistance. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for support among an additional 509,000 local residents in the area. According to the UN, some 1.8 million people in the Cox's Bazar District are thus in need of humanitarian assistance.

What is Danish Refugee Council doing for the Rohingya?

DRC Danish Refugee Council has been active in Bangladesh since 2017, when the latest - and largest - group of Rohingya refugees arrived. Five years later, we are still working in ten Rohingya camps and two communities, providing various forms of assistance:

  • We manage and develop the camps to improve living conditions for residents.
  • We provide individual protection and identify and develop support options for vulnerable children and adults.
  • We provide support for practical training, income-generating activities and environmental protection.
    We repair and maintain housing.

The Danish Refugee Council has been active in Bangladesh since 2017. Here, the first team provided emergency assistance to the fleeing Rohingya and the host community, where people themselves are often poor and have few resources.

Fear of the coming rains

Fear of the coming rains

As if that wasn't enough, the fire occurred while people in the refugee camp were preparing for the annual monsoon season. They did this with the help of the Bangladeshi government, the UN, Danish Refugee Council and other organisations. The rainy season in Bangladesh runs from June to October. During these months, the risk of floods, cyclones, torrential rains and mudslides increases dramatically.

"The rainy season floods the camps. If we don't act in time, we know people will lose their homes and belongings again."

Sumitra Mukherjee, country director for the Danish Refugee Council in Bangladesh, says.

"The victims of the March fire are even more vulnerable now. At the same time, there is a risk that our ability to respond to the floods will not be sufficient. That is why we need to secure funds now to help them. We must both build new homes for the fire victims and prepare them and other refugees for the monsoon season."

Mariam and her family also fear the coming rainy season and are worried about how they will cope through the monsoon.

"I don't know how we will survive once the rainy season starts," she says.

Read more about Bangladesh and Cox's Bazar

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