A massive fire broke out at Rohingya refugee camp 16, managed by CARE Bangladesh, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on January 9, 2022. At around 4:45 PM (BD Time), the fire started in Block B and rapidly spread to Block C, causing significant structural damage to shelters, learning centers, latrines, and water facilities. Local disaster management volunteers from the Rohingya community acted as first responders and to try and contain the fire using available resources. With support from several units of Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD), the fire was fully contained at around 7:00 PM. Under the supervision of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) and Camp-in-Charge (CiC), CARE being the management agency of camp 16, played the central role in overall coordination, response, primary damage assessment and support. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Kanika Mitro, Senior Office Manager - Program Support, from CARE Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar team, informed that “Disaster management unit volunteers played a vital role in containing the fire. The group of volunteers in camp – 16 immediately went to the source of the fire and started evacuating and breaking the houses to prevent the spread. Meanwhile, another two groups from camps 13 and 14, also CARE managed, arrived to aid in containing the fire with fire extinguishers, sand, and water. The fire was fully contained within a few hours after the fire department arrived. More than 450 Rohingya houses and eight host community houses, approximately 160 WASH facilities, and some learning centers are affected. Two individuals are reported to be injured in the fire, one of whom is serious. Two children were reported missing last evening who have been found and reunited with their families in the shortest possible time. CARE Site Management staff were working with IOM, WFP, and the RRRC till well past midnight to coordinate and ensure all the immediate supports.”
CARE has opened all its Women and Girl’s Safe Space centers and other community spaces to provide shelter for the affected families. Being the site management agency for camp 16, CARE is coordinating with Government, UN, and INGOs to play the central role in overall response, damage assessment, food and non-food item distribution, protection, and structural reconstruction from this incident.
Ram Das, Deputy Country Director – Programs of CARE Bangladesh, said, “It is devastating that once again a fire has broken out in the camp and caused injuries, damage to structures and displaced thousands of refugees from their makeshift homes. However, we are really proud of our Disaster Management Unit Rohingya volunteers and CARE colleagues at the field level who immediately responded to the crisis and managed to contain the fire using available resources. We will be supporting the affected families with their immediate needs, cleaning out the affected areas for reconstruction and conducting needs and damage assessments to plan the next action of response.”
Ramesh Singh, Country Director of CARE Bangladesh, said, “Just a few days back, there was a fire in one of the COVID-19 treatment centers, and now this. It is quite unfortunate that this has happened again in our camps. However, with support from the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner’s Office, different UN agencies, including IOM and WFP, CARE has been able to quickly contain the fire and support the affected families with immediate food and non-food items.”
CARE Bangladesh is the Site Management and Site Development (SMSD) agency under Area of Responsibility (AoR) of IOM in camp 16, implementing site management, site development, water, sanitation & hygiene, gender-based violence interventions, protection, and nutrition support in this camp. The camp has a population of 4,440+ households for 20,700 people. It may be noted that fire being a major hazard in the closely clustered camp setting, all agencies continuously conduct fire safety drills and fire prevention training, etc.