Cox’s Bazar – When the monsoon season started in Cox’s Bazar in 2020, boatman Pradip Shah Das in Teknaf Upazila and his family were forced to take shelter at their neighbor’s house. “The house where I used to live was flooded. When the storm started, we had to find shelter elsewhere,” recounted 37-year-old Pradip.
Cox’s Bazar is prone to cyclones, regular floods, tidal surges, river erosion and landslides, often affecting farm yields and prices.
According to the District Administration, nearly 300,000 of the one million people living on vulnerable hill-areas in Cox’s Bazar are at risk of landslide.
Among the affected population are also vulnerable fishing communities like Pradip’s, whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by a fishing ban on the Naf River, at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, due to the recent crisis.
Along with natural disasters, challenges related to safety, livelihoods and protection, have commanded a resilience-based multidimensional response for host communities.
Responding to the ongoing crisis, IOM is working to strengthen security and social cohesion between Rohingya refugees and host communities through its 12-month Safe Shelter program, funded by the Government of Japan.
The project aims to strengthen and support shelter initiatives in disaster-prone areas in Cox’s Bazar, strengthen protection mechanisms and approaches in both camps and host communities, create livelihoods and women empowerment initiatives, and provide the institutional capacity to Bangladeshi law enforcement. Capacity-building activities have been conducted for community members to ensure they make informed decisions on adequate shelter materials and construction techniques, followed by the distribution of the first cash grant in order to purchase the shelter materials.
Pradip’s house has been upgraded through this program—one of 1,000 families to have received the same type of support. “Now I have a new house which is stronger than the previous one,” Pradip said. “During disasters, I used to take shelter at other people’s houses, but now people can take shelter at my house.” To support families with the up-gradation of disaster-resilient shelters, teams also conducted several technical training sessions for 450 local carpenters on shelter improvement and maintenance, incorporating Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) features.
Mohammad Jamal, a former fisherman in Teknaf, has been trained in carpentry and now upgrading shelters for his fellow community members. “I didn’t know much about carpentry when I started, but I learned little by little. Not only do I have a more durable shelter now, but I have an income that helps me support my family,” Jamal explained. To complement the activities of the shelter upgrade, IOM’s Transition and Recovery Division will provide 500 vulnerable households livelihood activities based on their needs.
This activity will also support market-based livelihood opportunities and enhance the business capacities of existing cooperatives in Cox’s Bazar, promoting greater financial inclusion of women, youth and persons with disabilities.
“Upgrading these shelters’ quality is a key part of our continuous support for vulnerable host communities affected by this humanitarian crisis,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Cox’s Bazar. “We hope that these new disaster-resilient shelters and accompanying livelihoods support will empower host communities and boost the local economy, making those communities more resilient to the crisis in the future.