As Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Bangladesh and Myanmar on 14 May, local people and the humanitarian community nervously held their breath. Not only was it a category five-level cyclone—the highest alert level—its path was predicted to go straight through the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox's Bazar; a camp housing one million Rohingya refugees, who have fled multiple bouts of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
In anticipation of a crisis, aid agencies prepared, by pre-positioning essential supplies such as food, water purification tablets, and medicines. They took steps to secure facilities, provide emergency cash distributions, and prepare health facilities to manage the expected aftermath. More than 300,000 Bangladeshi residents were evacuated to shelters; however, all attempts to advocate to local authorities in Bangladesh to afford the same support to Rohingya were denied. These tight movement restrictions meant they were confined to their temporary shelters, and were relying on luck.
The Rohingya refugees’ bamboo and tarpaulin shelters are not built for strong winds, let alone a cyclone; so when the worst of the cyclone missed the camps, the international aid community let out a collective sigh of relief. While tragically eight people still lost their lives, and hundreds of shelters were destroyed in Cox’s Bazar District, the impact was lighter than had been feared.