As It Happens

Deadly monsoon rains kill young Rohingya boy at refugee camp in Bangladesh

Three Rohingya refugees, including a young boy, have been killed as rains batter camps in Bangladesh.

'The situation in the camps has gone from bad to worse,' says Daphnee Cook

Rohingya refugee women carry baskets of dried out mud from the riverbed to help raise the ground level of the camp in preparation for monsoon season, in Shamlapur refugee camp in Cox's Bazaar on March 24. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters )
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It's only the beginning of monsoon season in Bangladesh — and it's already been deadly.  

Rains have caused mudslides in several areas, including Cox's Bazar, where more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees live in makeshift shelters after fleeing violence in Myanmar.  

According to the Guardian, at least three Rohingya refugees have died following the rains in Cox's Bazar, including a young boy. 

Daphnee Cook is a spokesperson for Save the Children's Rohingya response, who was in Cox's Bazar at the camps.

She spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about what she saw. Here is part of their conversation. 

First of all, tell us about this boy — this Rohingya boy — who died. What happened?

We understand that the little boy was at home with his mother when the side of their shelter collapsed into them and seriously injured his mother and tragically crushed the little boy.

We understand that his mother was in hospital last night, and his father is obviously absolutely devastated at what's happened.

A Rohingya refugee boy carries water in the Kutupalong refugee camp, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh March 22. (Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters )

You left just some hours ago this area called Cox's Bazaar, which is sort of the centre of where these Rohingya refugees are. What was it like?

The conditions have been extremely concerning and I feel like it's not enough of a word to describe it.

But basically the situation in the camps has gone from bad to worse over the last four days.

I saw dozens of children playing in floodwaters. You know the risk of disease in these camps cannot be underestimated.

We've been ... reporting what people like yourself have been saying, which is that people knew these monsoons were coming, that these people were in an extremely vulnerable place.

What preparations were they able to put into place before the rains and the winds began?

As you said, this isn't a surprise.

Bangladesh is one of the wettest countries in the world and Cox's Bazaar is one of the wettest parts of the wettest country in the world.

What we didn't know it was how the land that the people were living on would respond to the rain.

So it's really untested territory when 700,000 people arrive. They had to find room somewhere. They chopped down a whole bunch of trees and put up their shelters and it's on a sandy ground.

And what's happened is, as I said, it's fallen apart.

But we did have time to prepare there. So there's been a lot of shelter strengthening — you know, helping people to make their houses secure as possible.

A Rohingya refugee walking with an umbrella through heavy rain in the Kutupalong refugee camp in 2017. (AFP/Getty Images)

Are there injuries? Are there people who have been washed out of their homes?

The latest figures that I have say that they've had over 30 injured people, so that's not including the three fatalities.

But then over 2,700 people have been displaced.

So that's extremely concerning. Displaced people of an already displaced population.

And this is only after four days of rain.

We've been hearing from people like yourself, from the aid agencies, for some time that this Cox's Bazaar … cannot hold as many people — 700,000 people can't stay there. What are the discussions about relocating people from the area?

An agreement has been signed between the Bangladeshi government and the Myanmar government to agree for the eventual repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar.

However, we're all very conscientious that any repatriation needs to be voluntary, it needs to be safe for children and their families, it needs to be informed and it needs to have all external actors at the table.

What petition would you make to this country as to what it should do for Rohingya?

I would say thank you so much for the support that you're already so generously provided.

But I believe it's only about 22 per cent of the overall funding asked has been met, and that's just not enough.

That funding ask is related to saving people's lives. It's related to rebuilding houses after after they tumble down a hill. It's related to making sure kids have access to vital nutritional supplement so they can grow up healthy.

We do ask the international community and, you know, governments like the government of Canada to really commit to this response and to supporting Rohingya families and children.

Written by Sarah Jackson. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.