Since 25 August 2017, more than half a million Rohingya have fled conflict in Myanmar across the border to Bangladesh. The majority have settled in makeshift settlements and spontaneous sites, in self-built shelters established primarily with bamboo and tarpaulin bought upon arrival. The speed and scale of displacement, continued movement of people within the area, and lack of vehicular access to much of the population has resulted in an extremely challenging response and significant information gaps on the humanitarian situation of refugees in these sites.

In mid-September, REACH deployed to Bangladesh in support of the Global WASH Cluster to map shelters and infrastructure in the makeshift settlements and spontaneous sites. Sites are spread across the forested hills of Cox’s Bazar district, ranging from populations of 20-30,000 to the largest site of over 310,000 people in a contiguous area. Since arrival, REACH has established a team of over 40 enumerators to complete infrastructure mapping, with a particular focus on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), in all spontaneous sites and makeshift settlements in Ukhia and Teknaf Upazilas of Cox’s Bazar district. Fieldwork comprises using mobile data collection applications and GIS technology to conduct a full coverage of the camps, logging all infrastructure and recording details of available services.

Previously, REACH deployed to Bangladesh in May 2013, after Cyclone Mahasen made landfall in Barisol, in the South of the country, affecting 1,042,340 people – roughly 25% of the population – and displacing up to 38,000 people. Official estimates from the Disaster Management Information Center (DMIC) reported that a total of 118,792 shelters were damaged. 

A few days into the emergency phase, REACH supported the Phase 3 Detailed Assessment, a joint initiative of the Government of Bangladesh and the Shelter, WASH, and Early Recovery Clusters. REACH team first collected secondary data from government and agency sources, which was integrated into the analysis for the final report. REACH also used the Joint Needs Assessment Phase 1 data to produce a series of maps and webmapsIn the end, assessment teams managed by REACH staff conducted household surveys in rural and urban/semi-urban areas among 4,615 households and key informant interviews in each of the communities visited. Tropical Storm Mahasen in Bangladesh: Phase 3 Shelter, WASH, Early Recovery Detailed Assessment thus aimed at providing contextual information regarding the impact of the typhoon at a community level, land and resettlement issues, economic impact of livelihoods, and location of highly affected populations.