A massive fire ripped through the Rohingya refugee camp

In the Rohingya community, a devastating fire is just the latest tragedy. A massive fire ripped through the Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya Upazila, Bangladesh’s southern district of Cox’s Bazar, on Sunday, March 5th, 2023, leaving around 12,000 people homeless. 

The blaze started at about 8:45 and quickly tore through the bamboo-and-tarpaulin shelters. A devastating fire broke out in one the 33 camps hosting almost 1 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh (3). A fire started in Camp 11 and quickly spread to the neighboring camps, including Camp 10, a highly congested area. However, due to the wide drain separating Camp 10 from Camp 9 and the direction of the wind, Camp 9 was saved from the fire. Authorities and the fire brigades did their best to control the fire, and around 6 p.m., the fire had become under control (4). 

It is estimated around 12,000 people, most of whom escaped violence in neighboring Myanmar, are now homeless (1). The devastating fire destroyed an estimated 2805 shelters (3). The blaze was brought under control within three hours but at least 35 mosques and 21 learning centers for the refugees were also destroyed (2). The blaze destroyed health and education facilities, water networks and other daily need materials for people living in the camp. Refugees in the most affected areas lost their belongings, including registration documents and other essential things.  

The cause of the fire is not yet known and no casualties have been reported but the fire on Sunday razed many shelters after spreading quickly through gas cylinders in kitchens. 

In Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya refugees face significant hassle. The camps have been hit by floods and landslides, highlighting Bangladesh’s climate change vulnerability. Between January 2021 and December 2022, there were 222 fire incidents in the Rohingya camps including 60 cases of arson, according to a Bangladesh defense ministry report released last month (1).  

The casualty reports indicate that: 

  • Approximately 2,805 shelters were destroyed by fire (3) 
  • Roughly 12,000 FDMN were left homeless due to the fire. 
  • 35 mosques and 21 learning centers were burnt down. 
  • Several other health posts were also destroyed in the fire. 

The Rohingya are Muslims in largely Buddhist Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for generations. More than five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya poured into Bangladesh from neighboring Myanmar, where the marginalized group faced violence at the hands of the military described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing. 

About 1.2 million Rohingya—around 50 percent of them children—live in squalid conditions in Cox’s Bazar, in an area of less than seven square miles. Already, they have lost many things to previous violence in their homeland. Now because of this fire, these Rohingya for the second time become homeless and lost everything. These refugees are totally dependent on international aid. Providentially, different agencies are on the field with the support of the international community. Some agencies provide materials to meet their basic needs such as food, water or education. HAEFA (Health and Education for All) ,a NGO (non governmental organization), is one of those which is trying to help them from the beginning.  

Although the fire was very closely located to the HAEFA health posts in Camp 09 and Camp 1W, the HAEFA medical team has been active in the affected areas from the very beginning of the fire. Preventive measures have been taken to protect the health posts as well as other medical facilities nearby, and medical assistance is being given to the thousands suffering from burns and injuries. HAEFA personnel have also been involved with the rescue efforts in the area, and as a result, critical healthcare services were given in time to many who needed it. 
On March 6, an emergency medical team from HAEFA started working onsite to provide additional support to victims at the health posts. Md. Jahidul Islam, the Medical Assistant and Camp Coordinator at the Balukhali Camp 09, reports, “In the days since, we have treated three burn patients with dressing and medicine. The emergency required quick thinking and hard work, but it was all worth it.” The team has also collected important data, such as the previously stated numbers of shelters destroyed and newly homeless FDMNs, to better understand the extent of damage and work on the victims’ rehabilitation accordingly. 

Kutupalong (Camp 1W): 

  • More than 2,715 patients visited Camp 1W in Kutupalong and received healthcare services. 
  • 133 laboratory tests were conducted at HAEFA’s semi-automated NCD Pathological Laboratory 

Balukhali (Camp 09): 

  • More than 1,805 patients visited Camp 09 in Balukhali and received healthcare services. 
  • 195  laboratory tests were conducted at HAEFA’s semi-automated NCD Pathological Laboratory           

FDMN Rohingya Camp at Bhashan Char: 

  • More than 2,322 patients visited the HAEFA Medical Check-Up and Treatment for FDMN Rohingya Camp at Bhashan Char and received healthcare services 
Image 1: Doctors at HAEFA's Balukhali Camp 09 health post treating a burn patient.
Image 2: HAEFA personnel rebuilding shelter for the newly homeless FDMNs.
Image 3: HAEFA members helping local workers rebuild shelters for the FDMNs.

At a glimpse: Healthcare services provided by HAEFA in Bangladesh

  • 64,855 women (30-60 years) were screened for the detection of early-stage cervical cancer in 9 Upazilas of Kurigram from Nov. 2019 – Mar. 2023 
  • 42,895 women (30-60 years) were screened for the detection of early-stage cervical cancer in 6 Upazilas of Cox’s Bazar from July 2021 – March 2023 
  • 268,985 Rohingya refugees/FDMN in Ukhiya and Bangladeshi nationals living in the surrounding Ukhiya Upazila (sub-district)  received free medical care in Cox’s Bazar from October 2017 to March 2023 
  • 48,140 Rohingya refugees/FDMN in Bhashan Char and Bangladeshi nationals living on the island have received free medical care in Bhashan Char, Noakhali, since November 2020 
  • More than 3,930 Bangladeshi nationals in Ukhiya received free medical services from the Mobile Medical Clinics of HAEFA since 2022.  
  • A total of 9,990 Diagnostic Lab Tests have been performed at HAEFA’s NCD-based Path Lab in camp 09 and 1w since January 2022.  
  •  More than 6,000 Healthcare providers were trained under the TOT program for Mental Health Support and Resilience Training in collaboration with Project HOPE 
  • More than 3,000 physicians received the Advanced COVID-19 Clinical Management Certification online at the DGHS, MoHFW website. This course collaborates with DGHS, Brown University CHRHS, Project HOPE, HAEFA, USAID, and SCiB. 
  • More than  40 students from classes six to twelve at  (Bhawal Mirzapur Hazi Jamir Uddin School And College) received annual merit scholarships from 2019 till to date. This is a collaboration between HAEFA and M A Malek Education Scholarship Foundation.  
  • COVID-19 Relief Effort for Underprivileged people : 
    HAEFA Provided a two-week supply of food packages for more than 1,500 families (5 members/family) in 5 districts of Bangladesh in 2021-2022. 

Screening, Treatment & Management for Prevention of Cervical Cancer Training held

Cervical cancer is one of the most major health concerns in Bangladesh with a staggering 12,000 new cases and 6,000 deaths reported each year. With the aim to become the regional training hub for cervical cancer in Bangladesh, providing training to service providers from various districts and upazilas of the country, the Cervical Cancer Screening Training and Research Center of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), was inaugurated on February 20th, 2023, with the technical support of HAEFA and Brown University and funding support from the UNFPA and DGHS. 

Training on Screening, Treatment & Management for Prevention of Cervical Cancer was held in three consecutive batches at Dhaka Medical College Hospital in February. The First Batch commenced from 11th February till 23rd February 2023, the Second Batch from 25th February till 9th March, 2023 and the Third Batch, from 11th March to 23rd March, 2023. In the 1st Batch, Gynae consultant from Ulipur UHC, Medical officer from District Hospital of kurigram & Bhurungamari, SSN from DH, Bhurungamari & Rawmari UHC, Also Mymensingh Medical College Hospital’s Gynae Consultant were present. The 2nd & 3rd batches included the presence of Cox’s Bazar District’s service providers, Gynae consultant and MO’s. A total of 44 service providers were trained by these training sessions. 

The training programs were designed to conduct a 12-day training. In the first 6 days, VIA Basic training and in the following 6 days, Colposcopy basic training with advance management were held. 

All batches were closed with a certificate giving ceremony, where Director of DMCH Dr. Nazmul Haque, Deputy Director Dr Md Zillur Rahman, Assistant Director of DMCH Dr Ashraful Alam, Gynae Departmental Head Prof. Dr Nazma Haque with additional 6 faculty members were present.  

“Healthcare Campaign Week” held to commemorate the 103rd birthday of the Father of the nation

To celebrate the 103rd birthday of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and National Children’s Day, 10 camps were set up on “Cervical Cancer and Breast Cancer Screening”. The camps were a part of the “Healthcare Campaign Week,”and were held in different community clinics of different Upazilas on 23rd March 2023.  

These camps were a collaboration between HAEFA and DGHS, Ministry of Health (MoHFW), Government of Bangladesh. One dedicated representative from the HAEFA Cervical Cancer Cox’s Bazar team for each camp site and three members monitoring unit visited different Community Clinics. A total number of 251 eligible women were screened.

Healthcare for the Rohingya FDMNs/Refugees

Since its establishment in October 2017, HAEFA’s healthcare workers have provided free medical care and medicine to the Rohingya FDMNs. In March 2023, more than 4,520 individuals received free medical care and diagnostic services from HAEFA.  

Kutupalong (Camp 1W): 

  • More than 2,320 patients visited Camp 1W in Kutupalong and received healthcare services. 
  • 130 laboratory tests were conducted at HAEFA’s semi-automated NCD Pathological Laboratory 

Balukhali (Camp 09): 

  • More than 1,610 patients visited Camp 09 in Balukhali and received healthcare services. 
  • 190 laboratory tests were conducted at HAEFA’s semi-automated NCD Pathological Laboratory           

FDMN Rohingya Camp at Bhashan Char: 

  • More than 2,330 patients visited the HAEFA Medical Check-Up and Treatment for FDMN Rohingya Camp at Bhashan Char and received healthcare services 

HAEFA Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment

  • In Kurigram District, HAEFA provided over 1408 women with cervical cancer screenings conducted in Upazila Health Complexes (UHCs). 50 patients were found VIA positive through the initial screening test and referred for further investigation and treatment. 
  • In March 2023, more than 1660 women were screened in 06 VIA centers (Sadar Hospital, MCWC, Ramu UHC, Moheshkhali UHC, Chakaria UHC, Pekua UHC) and 10 VIA Camps including two hard-to-reach areas of Kutubdia and Moheshkhali. Thirty-five cases were found positive through the initial VIA screening test and referred for further investigation. The team followed up with them and organized Colposcopy in Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital and Chakaria UHC. Seventeen Colposcopies and three thermocoagulations were performed at Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital. The Cox’s Bazar Project team also followed up with seven previously identified cancer patients and referred them to Chattogram Medical College and the National Institute of Cancer Research & Hospital (NICRH), Mohakhali, Dhaka, for further treatment. 

HAEFA Health Clinic for Host Community

In March, the HAEFA Health Clinic services for the host community were provided on the 23rd of the month to more than 70 patients, at Phalong Model High School, Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 

Donate to Support Our Cause!

HAEFA is in need of your donations to support the healthcare and free medicines for 1.1 million Rohingya. refugees FDMN (Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals) in the makeshift camps and also for the underserved, hard-to-reach people living in the coastal and flood prone areas in Bangladesh. Any support, whether donations, outreach, aid in collaboration from personal and professional involvement, or any other method of support to HAEFA and its underprivileged, underserved, and displaced beneficiaries, would be greatly appreciated! All donations to HAEFA are tax-deductible as allowed by the laws of the United States. 

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For more regular updates on the Rohingya refugees and other activities related to our organization, be sure to give us a like on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. 


HAEFA Newsletter Editorial Board

Nairita Ahsan Faruqui

Raihana Mehreen
Associate Editor


Dr. Kaniz Ferdouse Mou
Associate Editor


Contributors for the April Newsletter:
Sajia Haque

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