By Vatican News staff writer
At least fifteen people were killed in a fire that swept through the sprawling Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Monday.
Reports indicate that the fire destroyed at least 10,000 shelters as it blazed through the camp. Several people were injured and an estimated 45,000 people were displaced. Some essential facilities including distribution points, learning centers and a health clinic were also damaged in the fire.
Cox’s Bazar is one of the world’s largest refugee camps. It currently houses an estimated 800 - 900,000 Rohingya refugees who fled the violence in Myanmar in 2017. A significant percentage of the refugee population at Cox’s Bazar consists of children.
In the immediate aftermath, several aid agencies rushed in emergency assistance to tens of thousands of victims. Officials say that they are uncertain about the cause of the catastrophic fire.
Emergency aid response
A statement on the UN website said that World Food Programme (WFP) engineering and field personnel, as well as food assistance teams have been on ground since the fire was first reported.
Bangladeshi government agencies, NGOs and other humanitarian organizations are also working hard to respond to the situation by delivering emergency supplies including blankets and clean drinking water.
The UN is responding to the emergency by providing meals for the affected as well as ambulances and medical teams to respond to injuries and provide mental health and psychosocial support.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also mobilized teams to provide assistance to children in need, especially those separated from their families.
The Rohingya refugee crisis
The Rohingya refugee crisis began in August 2017 after attacks on police outposts in Western Myanmar by armed groups allegedly belonging to the community.
These attacks were subsequently followed by military-led counter attacks against this predominantly Muslim minority group.
In the period that followed, over 700,000 Rohingya fled their homes for safety into Bangladesh – the majority of them the elderly, women and children.