Story by Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross 

Photos by, Brad Zerivitz, American Red Cross

Mohamed Sofiaed and his son, Mohamed Arfat, age 2, fled Rakhine state in October 2017. They arrived in Kutupalong mega-camp after days of walking on end. Their temporary shelter is perched on a hillside that could give way when monsoon rains arrive. Like most of the 600,000 people who have fled into Cox’s Bazar, Mohamed’s and his son’s lives during the monsoon could go from extremely drastic to extremely dangerous.  Cox’s Bazar is known for heavy rain and wind during the monsoon months of June, July and August.

Days of drenching rain have already triggered floods and landslides across camps. In many places, sandbags and retaining walls failed to stem torrents of mud and clay from sliding down deforested hills.

As monsoon season sets in, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, American Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have been ramping up disaster preparedness efforts: helping train hundreds of camp residents and local community members on disaster mitigation, first aid, early warning systems, and other lifesaving skills.

One of these community members is Amena, who has been living in one of the camps in Cox’s Bazar with her family for the past nine months. In an effort to keep her loved ones safe, Amena decided to become a cyclone preparedness camp volunteer. “It feels good to learn new things. I will share this knowledge with my community,” remarks Amena. Thanks to her efforts, her neighbors will be more familiar with what to expect when a cyclone—or other disaster—comes their way.

New-arrivals are also receiving help from people like Nurnobi, who are teaching new families about tying down their bamboo roofs, putting down sandbags, and recognizing the early warning signals. “I am confident that my family and I will be okay, as we have learned how to stay safe over the years. I am more worried for the new arrivals, but I am always prepared to help others.”

The Red Cross and Red Crescent is delivering emergency assistance, including healthcare and shelter repair kits containing tools, ropes, tarpaulins and other materials to help families whose makeshift homes were damaged by the wind and rain. They are supporting disaster simulation drills and equipping volunteers to warn fellow residents of danger via mega phones, a flag system and even loudspeakers at mosques.