Jan 15: A fire raced through a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh on Thursday, destroying hundreds of homes, officials said. No casualties were reported.

About 3,500 people lost their homes in the middle of winter and the coronavirus pandemic. The UNHCR said more than 550 homes sheltering as well as 150 shops were either totally or partially destroyed in the fire. A community centre is also said to have been destroyed.

The Nayapara camp hosts about 22,500 refugees, of whom about 17,800 are women, children and the elderly.

The fire erupted shortly after midnight on Thursday (local time) in the Nayapara refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Mohammed Shamsud Douza, a senior refugee official, said firefighters took two hours to bring the blaze under control.

UN Response

UN agencies have been on the ground since early Thursday morning, assessing the damage and helping the affected.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing emergency food assistance, including hot meals to families in need.

We are working with our Government and NGO partners, other UN agencies, and Rohingya refugees to help people who have lost their homes and possessions during last night’s terrible fire in the refugee camp at Nayapara,” said Marin Din Kajdomcaj, an official with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar.

Rohingya Crisis

Alongside, humanitarian partners from the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), Bangladesh Red Crescent and NGOs are also assisting the affected people.

This is another devastating blow for the Rohingya people who have endured unspeakable hardship for years, Save the Children’s country director in Bangladesh, Onno van Manen, said in a statement.

This fire will have robbed many families of what little shelter and dignity was left to them. About 700,000 Rohingya fled to the camps in Cox’s Bazar after August 2017, when the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar began a harsh crackdown on the Muslim group following an attack by insurgents.