On March 22, 2021 a massive fire swept through the densely populated Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh leaving some 10,100 households without shelter and affecting nearly 48,300 people.

Burnt cooking utensils lay on the ground in Kutupalong Camp. WFP/Mehedi Rahman
Burnt cooking utensils lay on the ground in Kutupalong Camp. Photo: WFP/Mehedi Rahman  

The Logistics Sector responded to the crisis by supporting partner organisations with coordination, information management and facilitation of access to common services from the onset of the tragedy.

In response to the crisis, the Logistics Sector organised an ad hoc coordination meeting to immediately assess the needs of partners and made Mobile Storage Units (MSU) and equipment from the preparedness stock available to partners to support the response.

“The Logistic Sector in Cox's Bazar was able to immediately activate its preparedness plan in response to the fire. Common transport was organised with Handicap International - Atlas as implementing partner, and the logistic hubs at Madhu Chara and Balukhali were operational 24/7 for the first two weeks to enable urgent requests for storage and equipment loans. Skilled staff for mobilisation and set-up were on standby to respond. The team did a fantastic job responding to many requests in a difficult situation,” said Tania Regan, the Logistics Sector Coordinator.

In total, 687 m3 (152 mt) relief items were transported for nine organizations using 74  trucks.  

HI-Atlas transports WFP hot meals at Camp 9. HI-Atlas/Shoebur Rahman
HI-Atlas transports WFP hot meals at Camp 9. Photo: HI-Atlas/Shoebur Rahman

Moreover, information on ongoing activities, key infrastructure, available storage and transport capacity in affected areas was being collected, consolidated and shared with the Sector partners on a frequent basis via a dedicated mailing list and the Bangladesh Logistics Sector webpage. “We proactively responded not only by facilitating access to services, but also by ensuring communication channels were open and information about the availability of services and logistics constraints affecting the response was efficiently and effectively communicated with partners,” said Priya Pradhanang, Logistics Sector Information Management Officer.

Assets such as light towers, ablution units, MSUs and generators were loaned out to World Vision International (WVI), Reaching People in Need (RPN), and Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) by the World Food Programme through the Logistics Sector. Furthermore, relief items including hot meals, dignity kits and tarpaulins were transported for Relief International, Save the Children , Action Against Hunger , World Vision International , Concern Worldwide , Dan Church Aid , International Rescue Committee  and the World Food Programme  by HI-Atlas.

“No matter the challenges, we carried out our response to reach affected refugee families with life-saving items, such as food. The services we provided played a pivotal role and kept us motivated during the hard times, “said Uttam Das and Paul Karmoker, Logistics Sector staff members who were there at the camps helping partners respond to the crisis.

An MSU and light tower were loaned to World Vision to help set up their hot meal kitchen at Cmap 8E. Photo Logistics Sector Uttam Das
An MSU and a light tower were loaned to World Vision to help set up their hot meal kitchen at Camp 8E. Photo: Logistics Sector/Uttam Das    

“The MSU provided by the Logistics Sector enabled us to prepare and distribute food among the refugees in a timely manner maintaining proper hygiene. Without the light tower, it would not be possible for us to distribute food at night,” said Rasel Mahmud from World Vision. ”      

To consolidate information, the Logistics Sector produced a Fire Response Map indicating the items loaned per location and cargo transported by HI-Atlas, as well as a Snapshot which provided a glimpse into the Sector’s response to the fire crisis, published on the Logistics Sector website. The Logistics Sector also designed and conducted a rapid assessment to identify access constraints on the roads used by humanitarian partners to reach the camps following the fire traffic, and access to the camps was updated in Log IE (PAC).

Responding to the fire crisis required a coherent inter-agency response, proper information sharing and robust field support to facilitate common service provision. In collaboration with HI-Atlas, the Logistics Sector will continue to provide transportation to support the Shelter/Non-Food Items Sector as they support the community in recovering from the fire. To learn more about the Logistics Sector Operation in Bangladesh, visit our dedicated page here.