A Crisis within a Crisis: Launch of MOAS Emergency Appeal

kutupalong-refugee-camp-bangladesh-09152_copyright_MOAS_Dale-GillettBangladesh is a country annually affected by severe flooding and wind damage during the cyclone and monsoon seasons, which run between the middle of March and end of September. Year on year the flooding related to the monsoon season has become worse, affecting those in coastal or delta areas most severely.

This year, Bangladesh is faced with increased pressure to prepare for the season as almost one million Rohingya refugees are now living in makeshift settlements or camps in the Cox’s Bazar area. Large tracts of steeply inclined land in the Ukhia region have been deforested in recent months to make way for the bamboo and tarpaulin shelters of the Kutupalong Expansion Site, where approximately 500,000 Rohingya are currently living, making this area particularly prone to landslides and flooding. In the Teknaf area, where MOAS’ health centres are based, these risks are compounded by a coastal vulnerability to storm surges and wind damage.

Diplomats at the United Nations Security Council described the oncoming situation as “a humanitarian crisis within the crisis”. Meanwhile, Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for UNHCR, said, “The adverse weather conditions, including potential cyclones, could put tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees staying at the highly congested settlements in Cox’s Bazar district at serious risk”. The coming crisis is now at the forefront of strategic discussions around flood preparedness and disaster planning for the Inter-Sector Coordination Group and all its partner agencies.

The concerns revolve not only around possible loss of life as a result of the landslides and flooding directly, but also around the ability for the refugees to access vital services such as health centres, WASH stations, and clean water, alongside increasing the logistical pressure on agencies trying to deliver aid. The Health Sector specifically has issued warnings on the increased spread of communicable disease if living conditions in the camps worsen and standing water collects after floods.

MOAS, and other health sector partners, are now working hard to prepare their facilities and teams for the season ahead, with a focus on maintaining access to and provision of services to their target communities. Paul, MOAS’ Logistics Coordinator, is an expert in flood preparedness, Search and Rescue and unstable terrain rescue, and has designed MOAS’ response from the bottom up.

In order to continue delivering our vital services should MOAS’ two health centres become inaccessible, MOAS is creating mobile medical units through which our team will be able to conduct outreach and medical care in the communities themselves. The team will receive specialist water safety and water rescue training and will be equipped with flood suits, helmets, life, jackets, and sleds, on which equipment and medications will be transported to those in need. Specialist transport in the form of a vehicle or boat is also being sourced.

Our facilities have already received infrastructural works to stabilize them as far as possible against the oncoming weather, and in anticipation of the difficulty of sourcing and procuring medicines, pharmaceuticals and medical disposables during the period of extreme weather, our team is preparing in advance the medical stock necessary for three months. These preparations and the added challenges and pressure that are sure to come will put an extra burden on MOAS’ resources. As ever, we rely on donations from private citizens and community groups to keep our operations running and now is no exception. For the next four weeks we are running a campaign to raise 34,000 euros, which has been matched euro for euro by a foundation who have supported MOAS since our operations began. Give to MOAS’ emergency appeal now at https://www.moasfundraising.com/campaigns/emergency-cyclone-and-monsoon-appeal-2018/ and your donation will go twice as far.

Please, donate now and ensure that MOAS can continue to give access to primary healthcare to those in desperate need as this crisis continues to unfold.