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A Rohingya woman who fled violence in Myanmar with her child, who is being treated at an IRC-supported health center. Photo: Iris Ebert/IRC
Rohingya crisis

Bangladesh Crisis Watch

Since late August 2017, nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled violence in Myanmar's Rakhine State to Cox’s Bazar, a district in Bangladesh. The IRC is responding with health care, protection for vulnerable women and children, and emergency support for the refugees.

Monsoon in Bangladesh

  • Heavy monsoon rains recently hit the world's biggest refugee camp, in Bangladesh, which is home to 1 million Rohingya refugees.

  • IRC medical teams are in the camp treating patients and providing vital support.

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Country facts
  • Total population: 163 million
  • People displaced by crisis: Almost 1 million Rohingya refugees
  • Rank in Humanitarian Development Index: 139 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Bangladesh: 2018
  • People assisted: 63,469

Crisis briefing

After fleeing shocking violence in Myanmar, the Rohingya face a potentially devastating monsoon season this summer. Combined with local Bangladeshis at risk, an estimated 1.3 million people in Cox’s Bazar will need support in 2018.

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What caused the current crisis in Bangladesh?

Since 2012, violence against minority Muslims in Myanmar has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Most are Rohingya, now the world’s largest stateless people. In 2017 alone, over 650,000 fled to Bangladesh. The scale of the dispersement has created dangerously overcrowded refugee camps where basic services are stretched beyond their limits.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Bangladesh?

Nearly 1 million refugees in Cox’s Bazar are living in overcrowded shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulins, many erected on deforested hillsides subject to landslides. These filmsy structures will not be able to withstand the heavy rains of the coming monsoon season, which lasts from May to September.

While Bangladesh is well versed in response to natural disasters, the burden faced this year of nearly 1 million additional people will stretch authorities beyond their limits. A public health time bomb is set to explode, with diseases including diphtheria and cholera already widespread and malnutrition rates above emergency levels. Monsoon flooding will exacerbate these problems as latrines flood and water sources are contaminated. Dengue fever, hepatitis and diarrhea could sweep through the camps.

Lifesaving humanitatian aid is urgently needed to assist the Rohingya. Current aid organizations do not have adequate resources; humanitarian partners must scale up capacity in a very short time frame.

How does the IRC help in Bangladesh?

The IRC has launched an emergency response in Cox’s Bazar focusing on health and the protection of vulnerable women and children. We have established a number of “one-stop shops” where IRC teams work with partners to provide comprehensive care for women and girls, including reproductive and childbirth services and support for those who have encountered violence.


The IRC has also established two mobile medical teams to serve hard-to-reach populations in the Kutupalong-Balukhali mega-camp. As monsoon season sets in, these mobile clinics will serve communities whose health facilities have been shut down by flooding or landslides.

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