Dhaka, 28 May, Abnews: UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and its partners have trained thousands of volunteer Rohingyas on emergency preparedness and skills ahead of what is expected to be one of the most challenging periods since the refugee influx last year – the approaching monsoon.
The training and awareness sessions in the refugee settlements began several months ago.
It is estimated that up to 200,000 refugees could be at risk of flooding and or landslides, UNHCR said on Monday.
“As heavy rains and strong monsoon winds approach, it is critical that we stand firmly with the Rohingya refugees we serve,” said UNHCR Head of Operations in Cox’s Bazar Kevin J Allen.
“It’s equally important that we empower and train refugees to play their role in the response, working hand-in-hand with the national authorities, sister UN agencies and civil society.”
Many of the training programmes have provided additional skills for refugee volunteers who have been trained by UNHCR and its partners BRAC and Technical Assistance Inc. (TAI) as Community Outreach Members (COMs).
The COMs carry out house-to-house visits, identifying needs and advising families where they can get help.
Some 262 COMs now receive a wide range of training: on basic awareness and landslide risk mitigation, basic first aid training, as well as how to prepare for weather hazards, such as cyclones, heavy rains, flashfloods and landslides.
They are now helping families understand how they can stay safer, where they can go to get help and what they should do in the event of an emergency.
Having also received Psychological First Aid training, the COMs can also help allay people’s worries, as well identify those in particular distress who might need referrals to other health service providers and expert help.
Since April, the COMs have reached more than 20,000 people with messages on emergency preparedness at household level.
More than 900 UNHCR trained Community Health Workers (CHWs), meanwhile, have received certified First Aid Training, with another 1,500 currently being trained, including among them, 400 CHWs from UNHCR’s implementing and operational health partners.
CHW volunteers have also been trained under the auspices of the Government of Bangladesh’s Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP), as well as by attending workshops on preparing for possible outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea, risk communication – providing information to people so they can make informed decisions to protect themselves - basic counselling, psychological first aid and identification and referral of mental health cases.
Besides, other government entities, such as the Bangladesh Army has trained several hundred refugee volunteers to assist them in any first response.
There is also ongoing training of 700 Rohingya refugee Safety Unit Volunteers (SUVs).
These will be deployed as first responders in any incident – helping to put out fires, getting involved in any search and rescue operation, working closely with the government of Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence and other emergency services.
UNHCR has also been mounting awareness and information campaigns with the community, to ensure as many people as possible know what to do in terms of better protecting themselves during the monsoon period; how to strengthen their shelters; why some should move to safer areas; where to go and what to do in an emergency.
These include a community role about the dangers of landslides, which is especially aimed at children, to show how families can try to protect themselves from the risk of landslides.
The training complements practical steps that UNHCR, its partners, and the government of Bangladesh have taken to mitigate risks of landslides and flooding in the refugee settlements.
Mitigation measures include improved drainage, slope stabilisation, improved pathways, including working with the Army of Bangladesh to build and pave the main arterial road through the Kutupalong-Balukhali mega refugee site, and establishing early warning systems.
UNHCR along with its partners has built over 60 kilometres of drainage canals, more than 34 kms of footpaths, 34 kms of stairs, and 42 kms of retaining walls in the settlements.
UNHCR and partners have also distributed more than 82,000 upgraded shelter kits, which provide families with sturdier and more waterproof shelters.
They are currently distributing 80,000 pre-monsoon “tie-down” kits, comprised of steel stakes and rope to help families anchor their shelters firmly when strong winds start approaching.