Burned to ash: Another fire tears through Cox’s Bazar

By Sirena Cordova
January 14, 2022

On Jan. 9, a fire burned 1,200 shelters in Cox’s Bazar’s refugee settlement. Now, more than 5,000 Rohingya people are left with nothing. Nearly one million people live in the settlement in Bangladesh, and with a population density higher than New York City, any fire that erupts there can rapidly destroy hundreds of homes — which are made from bamboo and tarps.

This emergency isn’t happening in a vacuum, either. It hasn’t even been a full year since the massive fire at the settlement in March 2021, which killed 15 people and displaced 48,000 others. Fires are common in Cox’s Bazar, but it doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with. The people living here have nowhere else to go, and they’ve just lost everything all over again.

Disasters like this can take years to recover from, and since COVID-19 is still a serious threat to the community, the people who live there feel the impact tenfold. And we know from experience that adolescent girls and young women face dramatically increased safety risks during disasters like this.

In last year’s fire, children were separated from their families, and many parents we talked to were especially worried about their daughters. Our emergency centers provided protection and psychosocial support for separated children while we located their parents.

“I am thankful to Plan International for protecting my children and providing them with proper food and looking after their other needs,” Anjuman said, who was temporarily separated from her two children in the March 2021 fire.

This year is no different. We’re providing temporary shelters, food and psychosocial support for children affected by the fire. We’ve been working in Cox’s Bazar since 2017, so our volunteers and project staff are closely connected to this community. They live in the area and have the necessary expertise to provide assistance to those in the camp.

That’s what you’re helping make possible when you support Plan: local ownership and real impact, even during the worst crises. Our humanitarian response programs are designed specifically to make sure that the needs of children, adolescent girls and young women are served by the people who know them best.

We can’t always prevent a disaster from striking, but we can make sure we’re there to help girls recover when it does.

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