The scale of the fire that on 22 March 2021 hit the world’s largest refugee camp is dawning in Bangladesh and a new disaster is looming.

With the loss of several lives and thousands of vulnerable refugee and host community families left without possessions and out in the open.

Emergency aid is now crucial and lifesaving.

After the fire

More than 45,000 people are displaced and more than 10,000 homes are lost or severely damaged, while several hospitals and medical facilities are razed to the ground after a devastating fire on 22 March swept through the world's largest refugee camp complex in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Protection of the most vulnerable

DRC is right now mobilizing urgent support to the affected communities but also warns that this disaster can turn out to hit double hard among the already vulnerably population of more than 800,000 refugees and the local population living in and around the camps in the Cox’s Bazar district.

"More than 45,000 people are displaced and more than 10,000 shelters are lost or severely damaged, while several hospitals and medical facilities are razed to the ground. This fire is a tragic event that has impacted widely among refugees, residents, and also DRC as one of the humanitarian agencies working in the camps. Many of our volunteers in the camps have lost their homes, but luckily all our staff are safe. Only our premises in the camp are significantly damaged," tells Mikkel Trolle, Regional Director for DRC’s Asia Region.

"We have immediately allocated emergency funds to scale up the response in Cox’s Bazar and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable as well as distribution of shelter and repair kits."

Increased risk as monsoon season draws closer

Along with DRC’s Country Director in Bangladesh, Sumitra Mukherjee, Mikkel Trolle raises concerns that this disaster will affect Cox’s Bazar at a longer term as the monsoon season is nearing.

"As the fire happened, we were in the midst of preparing for the monsoon season in just a few months, and what is likely to also this year cause a crisis with needs for large-scale emergency responses. The seasonal rains turn camps into flooded areas including in Cox’s Bazar. Those who are affected by the fire now, are even more exposed. And there is furthermore a risk that capacity to respond will be depleted if we do not secure sufficient investment and funds to respond now," says DRC Country Director in Bangladesh, Sumitra Mukherjee.

"We need to scale up our capacity to address the needs caused by the fire and prepare for the monsoon contingency plan at the same time. It is essential and requires urgent action both from our donors and supporters to respond to needs here and now – and to prepare for the monsoon season that is just around the corner and feared by the communities in Cox’s Bazar," says DRC's  Regional Director for Asia, Mikkel Trolle.

DRC Presence in Bangladesh

DRC has been operating in Bangladesh since 2017 when the first team started providing emergency assistance to the Rohingya population arriving from neighbouring Myanmar. The Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh is hosting what today is the world’s largest refugee camp complex consisting of 34 camps with more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees.

As of 2021, DRC works in 10 Rohingya refugee camps with refugee protection and activities to address gender-based violence, support to camp management and site development, and to improve the livelihoods among refugees and the communities hosting them in Cox’s Bazar.

DRC Supporting People in Cox's Bazar

"Our first challenge is to ensure shelter for people. Our second challenge is the coming monsoon season." DRC Bangladesh is working hard to respond to needs after the devastating fire while also preparing for the coming monsoon season.

DRC Bangladesh