Monsoon Rains Threaten Rohingya

    21 July, 2018

    More than half a million Rohingya from Myanmar are in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, fled the military's campaign of violence against them. Now, they face another threat: monsoon rains.

    The intensity and speed of the rain cause landslides and serious flooding in the camps. The problem is made worse because many refugees take shelter on hills. But trees no longer hold the soil in place. They have been cut down to clear space and provide wood for shelters. The roots have been cut for firewood. When the rains come, the water turns the soil into heavy mud that slides down the hill and covers anything in its way.

    One man, named Mohamed Alom, was asleep in his shelter last month when mud slid through the plastic wall beside him. A tree root cut his head.

    In another slide, a 60-year-old woman was buried to the top of her legs in mud.

    One child has already died as a result of heavy rains, and thirty more people have been injured, says the group that oversees aid workers in the camp. The Inter Sector Coordination Group, or ISCG, also says that more than 200,000 people are living in areas believed to be in danger of landslides and flooding.

    Rohingya refugees pushing a truck that is stuck in mud after heavy rain at Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, July 4, 2018.
    Rohingya refugees pushing a truck that is stuck in mud after heavy rain at Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, July 4, 2018.

    The most intense rain is expected over the next few months.

    Officials have been able to clear some land in the camp and make it flat, but the area does not have enough space for everyone. About 34,000 people have moved to new shelters farther away. However, many now struggle to find firewood because they live far from the mountains, and they do not have money for travel to the markets.

    Mohamed Alom, marked from the cut on his head, is currently living in a one-room school house with 12 other people. He says he is hoping officials will help build him a new shelter. But, he says, he has no idea how long that will take.

    However, Alom notes that the Rohingya refugees have faced threats more serious than rain, including mass killings, rapes, and other abuse at the hands of soldiers in Myanmar. He said, "Here, even if there's a landslide, at least we don't have to worry about the military."

    I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

    Kelly Jean Kelly adapted this story for VOA Learning English from a report by the Associated Press. Caty Weaver edited the story.


    Words in This Story

    monsoon - n. the rainy season that occurs in southern Asia in the summer

    landslide - n. a large mass of rocks and earth that suddenly and quickly moves down the side of a mountain or hill

    shelter - n. a structure that covers or protects people or things