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Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Face Serious Water Shortage

Because of the growing shortage, the UNHCR began rationing the refugees' daily water supply

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FILE - Rohingya refugees collect drinking water at the Shalbagan refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh, March 5, 2019. VOA

The U.N. refugee agency says water rations for tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have been cut because of a serious shortage. The U.N. refugee agency reports that temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and sporadic rainfall have reduced the region’s water supply to a critically low level.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says aid agencies will begin trucking in water in the next two weeks for the more than 140,000 Rohingya refugees living southeast Bangladesh’s Teknaf Peninsula. He estimates the operation will cost about $60,000 a month. Because of the growing shortage, the UNHCR began rationing the refugees’ daily water supply.

“We are talking here about 20 liters a day,” Mahecic said. “This is a minimum standard in an emergency and we, because of the shortage of water, had to go even lower now to 15 liters a day per person. This is supposed to meet all of peoples’ needs for water during the day. So, from hygiene, preparing food, sanitation, everything.”

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FILE – Rohingya refugee women fill their canisters with water at the Leda refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Dec. 16, 2017. VOA

Mahecic notes the situation is different in the northern part of Bangladesh’s Teknaf Peninsula, where the 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong settlement in Cox’s Bazar have water available through boreholes.

The dry spell in the southern part of the peninsula is expected to last a few more weeks, andwill likely be broken when the monsoon season begins in June.

ALSO READ: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Get Identity Cards for the First Time

In preparation, Mahecic says the UNHCR is building better facilities to capture and preserve rain water. He said hundreds of refugees are participating in a project to create a reservoir to capture monsoon rain in Teknaf and preserve it throughout the year.

The project, which is run by the World Food Program with humanitarian agency ADRA and supported by UNHCR, should temporarily improve the situation. (VOA)

Next Story

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Get Identity Cards for the First Time

For most of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, things are about to change for the better

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FILE PHOTO: Amir Ali, 75, plays a violin in front of his house in Kutuapalong Rohigya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 8, 2019. VOA

Bangladeshi authorities and the U.N. refugee agency have registered more than a quarter million Rohingya refugees and presented them with identity documents that grant them a number of rights and safeguards.

Unlike citizens of a country, stateless people have few rights. They may be deprived of an education, a job or health care. Those who are not registered at birth have no identity. That is the situation for millions of Rohingya who were stripped of their citizenship in neighboring Myanmar in 1982. Many of them are sheltering in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after fleeing killings and persecution in Myanmar.

Change for better

For most of the more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, things are about to change for the better. The U.N. refugee agency says the more than 270,000 Rohingya refugees who have completed the registration process have for the first time ever received an identity card.

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FILE – Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. VOA

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the ID card includes a photo and key information, such as name, date of birth and place of birth. It also indicates Myanmar as the country of origin.

“The first and foremost purpose of this registration is humanitarian in order to safeguard their right to return, to regulate their stay and also to make sure that we do not know only how many people there are, that we have a detailed profile which allows us with the more accurate data to deliver far better assistance to this massive refugee population,” Mahecic said.

Mahecic says the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities hope to complete the registration process for the entire refugee population by November. He cites a number of benefits associated with having an ID card.

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Rohingya refugees gather near a fence in the ‘no man’s land’ zone between the Myanmar and Bangladesh border as seen from Maungdaw district, western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Aug. 24, 2018. Credit: AFP. RFA

ALSO READ: New Skills Training Project- A ‘Game Changer’ for Local Bangladeshi, Rohingya Refugee Women

Target assistance

Mahecic says the data will allow aid agencies to target assistance to people in acute need, including women and children heading families and people with disabilities. With the monsoon season approaching, he says the registration data will help reunite families who are separated during storms.

He notes the refugees are ripe for exploitation by smugglers and traffickers. Mahecic says the ID card will help authorities combat that nefarious trade. (VOA)