Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)3.30 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.3.40 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.3.30 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.3.20 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.3.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
Humanitarian Access Overview
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Bangladesh has received successive waves of Rohingya refugees since 1978, most of whom have returned to Myanmar following bilateral negotiations. The most recent influx occurred in September 2017, when more than 700,000 Rohingya crossed the border into Bangladesh after fleeing a military campaign in Rakhine state. To date, there has been no agreement on returns.?
Cox’s Bazar now hosts more than 895,000 Rohingya refugees across 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas (administrative regions). Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the Rohingya are registered as ‘forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals’ rather than as refugees. While the Government of Bangladesh has kept borders open, refugees continue to lack formal legal status, face extreme restrictions on movement, and are not permitted to legally work.?
This has left the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar in a protracted crisis and entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance. Camp conditions are marked by insecurity, congestion and lack of privacy, and inadequate sanitation facilities and water infrastructure. Most Rohingya households engage in high-risk coping strategies to meet their basic needs, such as selling or rationing aid or taking on additional debt. This is particularly true for women-headed households, households without access to income-generating activities, larger households (more than ten members), and those with elderly, chronically ill, or disabled family members. COVID-19 containment and risk mitigation measures have increased the number of refugee households employing emergency coping strategies, such as selling labour in advance, spending savings, or reducing non-essential food expenditure. The long-term impact of these restrictions remains to be seen.?
During the monsoon season between May to September, humanitarian conditions deteriorate significantly. Cox’s Bazar is extremely prone to flooding and landslides because of its rugged and hilly terrain. More than 40,000 refugees live in areas that have the highest risk of landslides.?
A fire in Camp 16 of the Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar on 9 January affected about 2,000 Rohingya refugees, including an estimated 750 children. Ten people reportedly were injured. The impact has been significant, with 370 shelters fully or partially destroyed. Around 30 host community households were also affected. More than 200 facilities including 116 WASH facilities and two learning centres were damaged. Displaced families have sought shelter with relatives in the camp, or have been displaced to Camp 15. Priority needs include shelter repair/rebuilding and access to cooking facilities. The cause of the fire is not known. On 2 January, a previous fire damaged a Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Isolation and Treatment Center (SARI ITC) in camp 20 Extension.?
While the overall access situation in Cox’s Bazar has remained stable in the last six months, there have been several changes. On 9 September, all humanitarian activities in the Rohingya refugee camps, except for edu - cation, were authorised to resume by the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner. On 22 September, Temporary Learning Centres were allowed to reopen in line with the national reopening of schools. Protection activities, which had been on hold given COVID-19 restrictions, have also resumed.
In July–August, the monsoon season resulted in flooding and landslides in refugee camps, killing ten people, displacing 25,000 refugees, and resulting in barriers to the accessibility and availability of essential assistance and services.
The security situation in the camps continues to deteriorate, with increasing concerns of armed criminal activity, petty crimes, inter and intracommunal disputes, and human trafficking. On 29 September, the Chair of the Ara - kan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights was killed by unidentified gunmen in Kutupalong camp. On 22 October, six people (including some under 18 years of age) were killed in an attack on a madrasa (religious school) while preparing for prayer. Attacks of this kind and scale are uncommon. Both events resulted in wides - pread fear in the camps, with reports of the displacement of people away from services and families going into hiding out of fear that they might be targeted.
Read more in the latest ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview.
The Government of Bangladesh plans to relocate up to 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island. According to Bangladeshi authorities, the relocation is necessary because of overcrowding, tensions between refugees and host communities, and gang-related violence in Cox’s Bazar. ?
In May 2020, the first 300 Rohingya refugees were relocated to the island after attempting to travel to Malaysia. After several phases of relocation between December 2020–May 2021, about 18,000 Rohingya are now on the island.?
At the end of March 2021, the UN conducted its first visit to undertake a protection and technical assessment. After evaluating safety and sustainability on the island, the UN acknowledged that the Government of Bangladesh had made extensive investment in infrastructure, including a power plant, schools, and two hospitals built in 2019.?
The UN and INGOs have raised concerns regarding access to healthcare facilities, livelihood opportunities, freedom of movement, adequate infrastructure, and safety. At least 200 Rohingya refugees have attempted to flee from Bhasan Char island since May.?
Around 3,000 acute watery diarrhoea cases among Rohingya refugees were documented on the island. One adult and four children died. The outbreak happened within two weeks after the first heavy monsoon rains in early June. Lack of adequate health facilities and livelihoods continues to be an issue. ?
Impact of COVID-19
On 5 April 2021, the Government of Bangladesh imposed a second national lockdown following a steep increase in COVID-19 transmission rates.?
On 19 May 2021, the Government placed five Rohingya refugee camps with the highest number of cases under complete lockdown. ?The remaining 34 camps were subject to heavier containment and risk mitigation measures. Under the new guidance, only health activities and the distribution of food and liquefied petroleum gas are taking place. WASH activities must be implemented by Rohingya volunteers under remote management or by staff adjacent to the camps. All other humanitarian activities are suspended.
For more information, please read here our latest report on secondary impacts of COVID-19 and potential consequences of the May 2021 containment and risk mitigation measures.
The Government of Bangladesh had suspended all but essential activities in all 34 Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar between March–August 2020.
The ACAPS team is monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information related to the outbreak, see our special reports.
ACAPS - NPM ANALYSIS HUB
In December 2017, the ACAPS-NPM Analysis Hub was established in Cox’s Bazar. This is a collaborative project between ACAPS and IOM’s Needs and Population Monitoring (NPM) unit.
The Hub supports the broader humanitarian response, producing analytical riefs, research, and analysis support, and providing stakeholders with an overview of the situation through updates and thematic products.
In response to the challenges associated with COVID-19, the ACAPS-NPM Analysis Hub collaborated with IOM’s Communicating with Communities (CwC) unit to better understand the impact of COVID-19 in the camps. Together, a series of reports entitled ‘COVID-19 Explained’ was produced, based on focus group discussions and key informant interviews with Rohingya refugees across Ukhiya and Teknaf.
These consultations enabled Rohingya voices to be part of humanitarian decision-making and help adapt programming during the COVID-19 response.
Learn more about COVID-19 Explained and the ACAPS-NPM Analysis Hub.
If you are interested in the work produced by the hub, please subscribe to ACAPS Cox's Bazar mailing list.
Health: The extreme population density of the refugee camps, poor hygiene, insufficient health facilities, and inability to self-isolate means the risk of infection within the camps is high. The pre-existing prevalence of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) suggests that the environment is conducive to the spread of COVID-19, as other respiratory diseases transmit much like COVID-19. According to Early Warning Alert and Response System (EWARS) there were 577,355 reported cases of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) in 2020. ?
Access to livelihoods and employment: The disruption to local markets and income generating activities has further decreased Rohingya refugees’ ability to meet their daily needs. Many report an inability to participant in humanitarian-led income generating activities, including Rohingya volunteers within NGOs and cash for work programs, as severely impacting their ability to meet basic needs. The host community also reported concerns over the lack of movement and inability to earn an income given the recent changes in humanitarian programming and the nation-wide COVID-19 containment measures enforced by the Government that closed markets. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Protection: The reduction in both income and presence of humanitarian actors in the camps has reportedly led to a spike in criminal activity and concerns over safety. Both host community and Rohingya respondents gave examples of recent security-related incidents concerning crime and theft and expressed increasing feelings insecurity. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Education: With the implementation of the nation-wide lockdown and essential service restrictions, access to education is critically compromised. This is having an impact on children but also on parents and families who are now spending all their time together in cramped conditions. See COVID-19 Explained Edition 5
Access to Information: Access to information is a key concern raised by a majority of participants in the COVID-19 Explained series regardless of age, gender, ability or population group. Rohingya refugees report lacking information on treatment as well as the current status of COVID-19 cases. They further expressed that those with mobility restrictions face the greatest barriers in accessing information, including older people, especially older women and persons with disabilities.
WASH: Both host community and Rohingya women expressed challenges in obtaining adequate menstrual hygiene items as well as accessing shared latrines during the day now that men are home all day, as opposed to at work. Rohingya participants in the COVID-19 Explained series report that the reduced presence of humanitarian actors has impacted WASH services and camp cleanliness. The lack of upkeep of public hygiene facilities in the camps was identified as a source of stress for both Rohingya and host community participants as they believe that dirtiness will increase the risk of virus transmission.