On March 22, 2021, a devastating fire broke out at Kutupalong Balukhali Extension, a refugee camp housing Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The fire caused significant damage to several camps inside the site and also damaged 200 reported structures in the host community.
The damage caused by the fire significantly delayed the humanitarian response and exacerbated the existing needs of the Rohingyas, who were already living in precarious conditions. It is estimated that of the 124,381 people living in the camps affected by the fire, 88,000 have been affected and 48,300 have been displaced. Those affected by the fire lost their homes and belongings and families whose shelters were not directly damaged or destroyed by the fires were still affected by the fire damage to latrines, water pumps, health facilities, learning centers, markets and distribution sites.
The Anxiety Response
Concern Worldwide has worked in Bangladesh since 1972 and has worked in Cox’s Bazar on and off over the years. Since September 2017, Concern has stepped up operations in Cox’s Bazar to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya people living in refugee camps. In 2020, Concern began responding to the Covid-19 crisis by working to improve the resilience of vulnerable households and improve the prevention and control of COVID-19 infection in health facilities and at community level in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Concern directly implements its Integrated Nutrition Project and in 2020 launched a three-year project funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), which is the humanitarian office of the US Department of State, working directly through a national partner. Social Assistance and Rehabilitation of Physically Vulnerable Persons (SARPV). It is this partnership that prompted Concern to engage jointly with SARPV in the fight against the fire. SARPV is the nutrition partner for Camp 8W – one of four fire-affected camps, and together in a joint task force, Concern and SARPV have responded to support fire-affected survivors in 8W.
The overall objective of Concern’s response was to ensure that the immediate food security needs of the 13,500 people affected by the March 2021 fires in Camp 8W were met. This was achieved through the following:
Result 1: Immediate short-term food and nutrition services are provided to those affected by the fires in Camp 8W
- Output 1.1: Targeted households meet their immediate short-term food needs
- Output 1.2: Targeted households have utensils to prepare meals at home.
Result 2**: Provision of psychosocial support and a complaints response mechanism for those affected by the fires in Camp 8W **
- Output 2.1: Number of people provided with psychosocial support
- Output 2.2: Complaints and response mechanism established and functional
Concern worked with SARPV to establish a response task force and began response activities from March 22 to April 13, 2021.
Besides the Rohingya community in the camps, part of a nearby reception area was also affected by the fire. Concern and SARPV supported both refugees and host communities in the response to the fire.
- Distribution of dry food and water to 13,920 affected people in Camp 8W
- Through joint activities with IRC under the PRM project, provided psychosocial support in Camp 8W through field teams and protection volunteers
- Distribution of household non-food items (ANA) – 2,499 refugee households and 140 affected host community households received home cooking sets
- Establishment of hot kitchens with the World Food Program (WFP) to provide at least 10,000 hot meals per day (lunch and dinner)
- Nutrition staff from Concern and SARPV screened 1,009 malnourished children and referred them for treatment
- Procurement of clothing and dignity kits (including underwear and sanitary pads) for 6,733 women and girls in Camp 8W
The evaluation used the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) Principles for the Evaluation of Humanitarian Assistance to structure the findings. These criteria were relevance/adequacy, connectedness, coherence, coverage, efficiency, effectiveness and timeliness, and impact. The cross-cutting themes of equality, protection, disaster risk reduction, partnership and environmental impacts were also assessed. Each criterion was scored on a scale of 0 to 4 as below:
- 4 – Exceptional performance
- 3 – Performance in line with what is expected of a well-functioning organization
- 2 – Performance generally acceptable but with some clear and documented shortcomings
- 1 – Barely acceptable performance with a few major shortcomings and reservations
- 0 – Completely unacceptable performance or insufficient data to make an assessment
The assessment rated the response as follows:
- Relevance/ adequacy – 4
- Connectivity – 4
- Consistency – 3
- Blanket – 4
- Efficiency – 4
- Efficiency and deadlines – 4
- Impact – 4
- Tie – 3
- Protection – 3
- Disaster Risk Reduction – 3
- Partnership – 4
- Environmental impacts – 2
The intervention was immediate within 24 hours of the fire. The evaluation found that “the project was successful in achieving its objectives and the immediate impact that resulted was that families affected by the fire were supported with nutritional interventions that prevented a deterioration in condition. nutrition”.
This publication covers aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of several donors, including the United Nations agencies (WFP), Irish Aid, Concern Worldwide CEO Fund and Concern US. The ideas, opinions and comments contained herein are entirely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent or reflect the policies of the donors.