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.
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.