oxfam logo

Fire at Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh

24 March 2021

45,000 people are now homeless and in urgent need of food, water and sanitation.

The fire started on Monday and spread rapidly over several hours in the crowded camps. Thousands of homes were completely destroyed before the fire was brought under control. The devastation is extensive and initial reports suggest that 15 people have been killed and 560 injured. Several hundred people are still missing.

Picture of burnt houses in Coz Bazar refugee camp

Photo: Mutasim Billah

"The worst affected areas have been reduced to ashes - all that is left are pieces of homes and occasional metal items such as pots and sewing machines. The scale of destruction is unlike anything our team has seen before," said Enamul Hoque, who leads Oxfam's disaster response team.

"We are deeply concerned about the 10,000 families who now have no place to go. The fire has destroyed essential infrastructure such as water tanks and sanitation facilities. People are now in urgent need of food, drinking water and toilets," said Enamul Hoque, who is leading Oxfam's disaster response. Oxfam has initiated relief efforts on the ground, both in terms of firefighting and clean water.

"We have been working all night to set up water tanks and install taps with clean drinking water. The disaster team also provided the affected people with hygiene items and emergency latrines. Repairing water systems will take time, which increases the risk of spreading disease, especially as the monsoon season approaches."

Enamul Hoque, Head of Oxfam's disaster response in Coz Bazar.

The refugee camps in Cox's Bazar are overcrowded, with about 40,000 people per square kilometer. The 10,000 families affected by the fire are now seeking temporary accommodation in other densely populated camps, further increasing the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

A top priority in the coming days is to reunite families separated by the fire. Another is to create safe conditions for those who have lost their homes. Women and girls are often the worst affected in these types of crises and disasters, and Oxfam will work with other humanitarian actors to develop solutions to ensure their safety. Oxfam will also distribute soap, food, and household items such as solar lamps.