Since August 2017, an estimated 744,400 Rohingya refugees have fled from Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, increasing the total number of refugees present in the district to an estimated 914,9981 . Within two months of the first arrivals, the number of refugee population in Cox’s Bazar district quadrupled, which made it the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. The influx continued over the subsequent months with more and more refugees arriving by foot and by boat. Most of them arrived from Myanmar without taking their belongings or cash, while others reportedly fled home only wearing their clothes, and without the means to buy anything else. Half of the refugees (nearly 55%) are children under the age of 18 years.
UNHCR was among the first humanitarian organizations to respond to the refugee influx through the provision of life-saving assistance. Distributions consisting of blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, family tents, plastic rolls, kitchen sets, jerry cans and buckets initially reached 250,000 refugees within weeks after their arrival. By the end of October 2019, UNHCR had distributed 1.1 million Core Relief Item (CRI) kits to newly arrived refugee families - each kit containing tarpaulins, kitchen set, blanket, jerry can, bucket, sleeping mat and solar lamp. Up until December 2018, 90,569 families had also received an Upgraded Shelter Kit (USK) consisting of muli-type2 and borak-type3 bamboo poles, rope, plastic tarpaulins, sandbags and toolkits, meant to reinforce their shelters during the harsh monsoon season. From April to October 2019, UNHCR distributed shelter repair items and provided shelter replacement assistance for more than 97% of households assessed to have shelter in bad condition or deemed to be vulnerable households in the camps in areas targeted by UNHCR assistance4 . As of October 2019, UNHCR has distributed shelter repair items and provided shelter replacement assistance for 78,778 households, and distributed Tie-Down Kit5 (TDK) to 88,361 households.
UNHCR, in close collaboration with its partner agencies, and other humanitarian actors, continues to support the Government of Bangladesh in responding to the refugee situation in Cox’s Bazar by ensuring relief items are also prepositioned and available to be delivered to the most vulnerable households in a timely manner. Facilities for the distribution of materials were improved in the camps during 2018 and 2019. Furthermore, a Global Distribution Tool was introduced to speed up the recognition of beneficiaries and align the accounting of materials distributed with the available registration data on refugees coming from a joint UNHCR-Government of Bangladesh registration process, thus reducing waiting times and the potential for multiple distributions to the same recipient.