Cox’s Bazar/Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 20 August 2018 – Ahead of the anniversary of the start of the Rakhine crisis, the world’s largest humanitarian network is calling for an urgent political solution to a situation that has forced hundreds of thousands of people into some of the most cramped and dangerously exposed conditions on earth.

More than 700,000 people displaced by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are living in camps in Cox’s Bazar. This equates to a population density of over 60,000 people per square kilometre – one and a half times that of Manila, the most densely populated city on earth.

Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:

This is equivalent to 75 families living in an Olympic-size swimming pool. This is grossly inadequate and completely undignified. But is particularly difficult given that this crisis is so protracted, and that these camps are so exposed to monsoon rain and tropical storms.

“The generosity of the Bangladeshi government and host communities should be recognized – without it, this crisis would have become a catastrophe. We are simply calling for a political solution to this crisis. People who fled from Rakhine cannot be expected to face another year in these conditions. They deserve more than this.”

People are living in makeshift shelters, made of bamboo and plastic sheeting. These shelters offer little protection against the elements. Thousands have been flooded or washed away in the monsoon rains that have plagued the camps in recent months. The situation threatens to deteriorate even further with the onset of the October-November cyclone season.

Md. Feroz Salah Uddin, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said:

“We have been responding with life-saving interventions over the past year but a direct hit from a cyclone could result in loss of precious lives. At this moment, the answer is to transition people out of these transitional shelters and into structures that are more secure, that are safer, and that offer more dignity for people.”

“We are in dialogue with the authorities to allow the construction of more sturdy shelters, and better community infrastructure like toilets, better water systems and drainage.”

In the 12 months since 25 August 2017, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, supported by IFRC and 25 Red Cross and Red Crescent partners from around the world, has reached more than 250,000 people with emergency assistance including food, water and shelter equipment. The Bangladesh Red Crescent and its partners have also provided life-saving medical care to about 30,000 people.

About IFRC:

IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.

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Media contacts

For more information, contact:

In Bangladesh:

Gennike Mayers, +880 1845 223 796, gennike.mayers@ifrc.org

Zulaikha Mudzar, +018 5434 7826, zulaikha.mudzar@ifrc.org

In Kuala Lumpur: Rosemarie North, +60 122 308 451, rosemarie.north@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Matthew Cochrane, +41 792 518 039, matthew.cochrane@ifrc.org