Fire destroyed thousands of shelters in several of the camps for Rohingya refugees. There are currently around 860,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and living conditions for them deteriorating due to several factors, including COVID-19 measures. © Pau Miranda

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: Fire destroys Rohingya refugee shelters and MSF clinic

A large fire has broken out in camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh where around 900,000 refugees are currently living. According to United Nations (UN) estimates, around 15 people lost their lives during the massive blaze, 560 people were injured and up to 10,000 families (more than 45,000 people) have been displaced, but the final numbers are still unclear.

People are looking at their destroyed homes in the Camp 9 Area of Cox’s Bazar. This is one of the most affected areas by the fire in the Rohingya refugee camps.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s Balukhali clinic was completely destroyed by the fire. Fortunately, all patients and staff were evacuated from the clinic before the fire intensified. MSF treated 11 people who were wounded in Kutupalong hospital and the hospital on the hill as a result of fire.  

Entrance of MSF’s Balukhali clinic after being completely destroyed by the fire that broke out on March 22, 2021.

This is not the first fire in the camp over the last months, devastating the lives of many Rohingya refugees living there. Their shelters are built with temporary and flimsy materials, which means that in the densely populated camps in Cox’s Bazar, fire spreads rapidly. Situation in the camps are deteriorating with reduced access to healthcare, increased violence and insufficient basic living conditions.

One of the MSF teams making a needs assessment the morning after the fire. Thousands of shelters in various areas of Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are destroyed.

The full impact of the fire on the community is yet to be seen as the fire continued to burn overnight. It is still not completely clear how many shelters, healthcare facilities and other humanitarian infrastructure has been destroyed. This is a major blow to the Rohingya community, who have been suffering the consequences of the deteriorating living conditions in the camps – with reduced access to healthcare and other humanitarian services. The Rohingya have been denied the ability to return to their homes in Myanmar safely and with dignity. The restrictions on their freedom of movement and with no access to livelihoods in Bangladesh, including the ability to work, mean that they are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance.