SHEL­TER FROM THE STORM

They have al­ready lost one home. With your help, the UN Refugee Agency can make sure they don’t lose an­other.

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Every year, Bangladesh faces

months of heavy, of­ten dev­as­tat­ing mon­soon rains. Deal­ing with this sea­sonal del­uge is al­ways dif­fi­cult, but right now the chal­lenges are com­pounded. Bangladesh is cur­rently home to the world’s largest refugee camp, strain­ing the coun­try’s al­ready lim­ited re­sources.

Since Au­gust 25, 2017, over 700,000 Ro­hingya refugees – mostly women and chil­dren – have been forced to flee the de­struc­tion of their homes and vil­lages in Myan­mar. They join 200,000 Ro­hingya refugees al­ready liv­ing in Bangladesh.

Even a small tar­pau­lin and bam­boo tent can help refugees re­gain some sense of nor­malcy and be­gin to re­build their lives. But tents are vul­ner­a­ble to tor­ren­tial rain, flood­ing and land­slides.

Khadija Kha­tum was able to es­cape with her 60-year-old mother and her two chil­dren af­ter armed forces burned their vil­lage of Ma­ji­para. The fam­ily would be dis­placed a sec­ond time when their makeshift shel­ter in the Ku­tu­pa­long refugee settlement was swept away in a tor­rent of wa­ter and mud. For­tu­nately, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was there.

Aid work­ers were able to re­lo­cate Khadija and her fam­ily to a well-con­structed shel­ter in a safe, flat area and to re­place the house­hold ne­ces­si­ties – sleep­ing mats, buck­ets, kitchen tools – they had lost to the land­slide.

As the lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion aid­ing and pro­tect­ing refugees, UNHCR has spent nearly seven decades help­ing the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. You, too, can help by do­nat­ing to give shel­ter to refugees who have lost ev­ery­thing. In a sit­u­a­tion where even small things make a huge dif­fer­ence, your con­tri­bu­tion can sup­ply so­lar lamps for light and safety, mos­quito nets for pro­tec­tion, and blan­kets for warmth. Your gen­eros­ity can help UNHCR sup­ply im­me­di­ate emer­gency aid as well as plan for long-term im­prove­ments.

Founded in 1950, UNHCR pro­vides in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to refugee pop­u­la­tions. As we wit­ness the great­est surge in hu­man dis­place­ment since the Sec­ond World War, this work has be­come even more cru­cial. The num­ber of peo­ple forced to flee

their homes be­cause of per­se­cu­tion, con­flict and dis­as­ter is grow­ing at an un­prece­dented rate. And 52 per cent of the world’s 25.4 mil­lion refugees are chil­dren.

Shel­ter is fun­da­men­tal for refugees, pro­vid­ing the phys­i­cal safety and se­cu­rity that make other im­prove­ments pos­si­ble. Shel­ter of­fers pri­vacy, sup­ports health, and pro­motes fam­ily well-be­ing. For peo­ple who fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs and the few house­hold items they could carry, shel­ter can pro­tect the lit­tle they have left, from im­por­tant doc­u­ments to pre­cious me­men­toes.

Per­haps most im­por­tantly, shel­ter pro­vides an emo­tional base. Fi­nally, refugees can be relieved of the ter­ri­ble un­cer­tainty of not know­ing, from day to day, where their chil­dren will sleep next. They can start to re­cover from past trau­mas. They can be­gin to imag­ine the fu­ture.

Un­der­stand­ing the es­sen­tial im­por­tance of shel­ter for Ro­hingya fam­i­lies, UNHCR worked tire­lessly be­fore mon­soon sea­son to mit­i­gate the threats of un­re­lent­ing rains and gale-force winds. Aid work­ers set up wa­ter­proof all-sea­son shel­ters, while hand­ing out tool kits to help sta­bi­lize ex­ist­ing tents. They also re­lo­cated those fam­i­lies most ex­posed to flood­ing and land­slides to safer ground.

Work­ing with the gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Bangladesh and with vol- un­teers from the refugee com­mu­nity, UNHCR shored up bridges, roads and foot­paths, en­sur­ing that sup­ply routes for es­sen­tial ser­vices such as food dis­tri­bu­tion and health care would stay open. They im­proved drainage to re­duce epi­demic wa­ter­borne dis­eases, which are par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous to chil­dren.

In the aftermath of this year’s mon­soon rains, Ro­hingya refugees still face dif­fi­cult and daunt­ing con­di­tions – but there is also hope. Fam­i­lies sep­a­rated dur­ing the chaos of flight have reunited. New neigh­bours have come to­gether to help one an­other. The chil­dren, like chil­dren ev­ery­where, are happy to play and learn. At newly con­structed com­mu­nity cen­tres, some of the chil­dren have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams for the first time in their lives.

For peo­ple who fled their homes with the clothes on their backs, shel­ter can pro­tect the lit­tle they have left

Op­po­site page: 11-year-old Jan­natul moved to a new shel­ter af­ter her fam­ily’s house was de­stroyed by a land­slide. Top: Khadija (mid­dle) sits with her young daugh­ter, son and mother out­side their new shel­ter. Mid­dle: sand bag re­in­forced steps in Ku­tu­pa­long settlement. Bot­tom: Ro­hingya refugees pre­pare for the mon­soon by build­ing new shel­ters.

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