Refugees perception of their shelters and technical solutions to improve shelter conditions

Karolina Brach, shelter sector coordinator in Cox Bazar and Magnus Wolfe Murray, Humanitarian Advisor, FCDO, expounded some of the issues of the shelter situation in Cox’s Bazar camps. The Rohingya population started to flee in Cox Bazar in 2017, and while it was initially thought that they would have been able to return to Myanmar, this refugee crisis is today in its fifth year. The main material used in the camp is bamboo, however this is not durable in the face of floods, cyclones and fires that often threaten the camp. Additionally, bamboo requires some treatments to make it more durable, however this treatment is not always conducted or provided by all the organisations building shelters. Bamboo also needs to be protected from the ground, fungus and water. Therefore, techniques like the metal footings would be necessary. For these many reasons, bamboo shelters require yearly replacement. This represents a huge pressure on the bamboo availability in Cox Bazar, as 19 million cans per year would be needed, but the capacity for treated bamboo in the camp amounts to 1.2 million cans. There are other solutions in addition to treatments to make bamboo more durable, among these harvesting it when it contains less sugar that attracts insects or not creating holes inside the cans for the ropes which fosters the access of sugar insects inside the cans. The role of the community in this sense is of utmost importance, as finding a good technique is not enough. It is in fact necessary to explain well to the community why they should use these techniques, what their added values are, to bolster their use. However, there are some shocking examples of international NGOs that have worked through local NGOs and they have built shelters of infamous quality in the camp.  This could be an example of the drawbacks of localisation, as it risks reducing the standards in the sector if there are not high standards of monitoring, quality control, training, learning, and feedback. Other materials have been proposed by some organisations such as CRS/Caritas, however more research on these materials and techniques is needed before using them in the camps.  Additionally, it is necessary that all the organisations part of the shelter cluster agree and coordinate to use the existent solutions and standards.