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Handling Human Waste at Cox’s Bazar
By admin February 4, 2019

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UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Oxfam worked together in Bangladesh to service the biggest human waste treatment facility ever built in a refugee settlement. The facility can process the waste of 150,000 people-40 cubic meters a day. UNHCR has also been working with partners in over 275 small scale sludge treatment sites in Cox’s Bazar, where close to a million Rohingya refugees live. The Kutupalong settlement in Cox’s Bazar alone is home to more than 630,000 refugees. Sanitation is a big challenge for host sites that do not have sufficient water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure.

Having a waste treatment facility on-site will reduce health risks and the likelihood of a disease outbreak. In 2018, more than 200,000 cases of acute diarrhea, as well as respiratory infections and skin diseases, were reported in the Rohingya camps. Densely populated settlements are breeding grounds for a health crisis.

Rohingya families have been fleeing persecution in Myanmar for years, but the violent backlash from Myanmar military in 2017 caused the latest exodus. The Rohingya left Myanmar to escape being a target of attacks and village burnings. Girls and women also reported being sexually assaulted by Myanmar military officers. Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as citizens of the state, therefore restricting access to education and hospitals, and even excluded them from the 2014 census. Myanmar claims that Rohingya are migrant Bangladeshis. While neighboring Bangladesh does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens either, they have set up emergency camps where possible near the border.

The prospect of Rohingya returning home soon is unlikely. Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, called the actions of Myanmar a “campaign of violence against ethnic minorities” that must end. In the meantime, refugees in Bangladesh have to advocate for better living conditions continuously. UNHCR and Oxfam engineers, with the support from Rohingya refugees, built the waste site in seven months.

The initial investment for developing the site and installing the equipment cost the agency about $400,000. Waste emptied from multiple locations in refugee sites will be transported in sludge vehicles, into two massive tightly covered lagoons, where the processing begins. This system is expected to operate at a minimal cost and greatly benefit refugees and local Bangladeshi communities. UNHCR is planning to roll out this model of waste treatment in other sites in Cox’s Bazar and future refugee crises.

Waste treatment primarily benefits the public health environment of refugee settlements, while also providing opportunities to create biogas which can be used for cooking. Water is also a primary source for maintaining public health, and water scarcity is an issue in Cox’s Bazar. Emergency response to refugee crises requires a comprehensive delivery of services. The large waste facility is a monumental improvement for managing waste in complex emergencies. It is essential for the international aid community to fulfill their commitments to refugees by providing safety, protection and life-saving interventions, such as the waste treatment facility, in a dignified manner.

 

For more information:

UN Envoy: No Prospect Rohingya Refugees Can Go Home Soon

World’s biggest refugee settlement gets biggest ever waste facility

Myanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis

Rohingya refugee crisis- Crisis update- August 2018

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Follow-up Assessment Monsoon Season (August – October 2018) – All Camps, Ukhia & Teknaf Upazilas, Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh


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