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The Kutupalong mega camp extended across 6,000 acres. The trees had tobe cut down in the nearby hills to make way for settling the families. At the beginning of the influx, there was nothing. Nolatrines, no shelters, no water, no food. Only exhaustion after having fled for days across the jungle. Mahadi Muhammad is the divisional Director for Action Against Hunger. He was there in August 2017and remembers everything perfectly: ͞“On26 August 2017, the first people began to flow in. The next day, with my teams, we left for no-man’s land on the frontier with Myanmar, a place where usually wedo not have the right to intervene. However, as humanitarians, we had togo there. I witnessed women and the elderly suffer. The children were covered in mud; you could not see their eyes orteeth. We cooked and loaded the vehicles with hot food and water. Our psychiatrists came along tohelp those people traumatised by the violence and flight. Now, the situation has improved, but the people are still suffering. Itis the rainy season and the hilly topography of the camp is very dangerous. Since it started to rain, channels and ditches have formed. The shelters are not robust enough to resist torrential rain. The children are falling sick with water-borne diseases. There are lots of cases of malnutrition. Currently we are treating nearly 10000 severely undernourished children.”
Perched on small hills, the bamboo shelters with their plastic tarpaulins offer little protection against the monsoon. Hastily erected, sometimes on the side of the hill, they are exposed to the hazards ofthe climate. On25 July, nearly 227mmof water fell in 24 hours, causing landslides. This is a normal day in Bangladesh. In Paris, 183mmof water fell between 1st December 2017 and 21st January 20181.
Rana Rashed isin charge of managing camp 14: a division amongst the 22 zones that make up the immensity of Kutupalong. 33,000 people live here. “We are the link between the refugee population and the services. We make sure that the people have access to water, food, and healthcare services thanks to the different organisations that are intervening in the camp. Each month, we assess the number of people and the arrangement of the shelters. We are also responsible for the safety of the site. With the monsoon, the camp has turned into muddy field. The hills are steep and slippery. Weare building some steps to prevent people from falling. We are erecting some reinforcement walls inbamboo to protect the paths and the shelters against erosion and landslides. We are also trying toconstruct some bamboo bridges to link each hill, so that the people can go over the channels that weave in and out.”
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