January and February are Bangladesh’s coldest months with night time temperatures falling as low as 10 degrees Celsius, yet in the camps it is common to see barefooted children wearing only thin cotton clothing, shorts and t-shirts. Most sleep on the floor in poorly constructed bamboo structures with nothing but flimsy plastic sheeting and very thin blankets to protect them from the cold at night.
As winter temperatures continue to drop, fears are growing that we could see more children, many of whom have already been weakened by malnutrition, suffer from illnesses such as upper respiratory infections.
A recent survey of 200 children in the camps revealed that many are very cold at night. A 16-year-old boy consulted for the survey in Kutupalong camp told Save the Children: "We do not have any warm clothes to wear. We also do not have any blankets. So we are suffering from the cold weather and are getting coughs and fever.”
“Our focus is to reach the most vulnerable children and women. The winter kits will be given to people with chronic illnesses, people with disabilities, families with pregnant women, infants and families with elderly people,” said Save the Children’s shelter expert in Bangladesh, Bishnu Prasad Gotame.
Maria Tsolka, Save the Children's Unit leading health specialist based in Bangladeshi district of Cox's Bazar for the agency's Emergency Health Unit said: "We are in the winter season here and overnight temperatures can fall as low as 10 degrees. While that is mild compared to winter temperatures in other regions of the world, the lack of warm clothing and flimsy shelter make the conditions difficult for people in the camps, especially children."
Khaleda*, an 11-year-old girl from an eleven-person family in Balukhali camp told Save the Children: "It is very difficult to sleep because it is very cold at night. We have no option but to sleep on the mattress on the dirt floor. And we have only four blankets, two for girls, two for boys but it is not sufficient for us all. The roof is always dripping water in the morning from the mist, so it makes everything wet."
Save the Children will distribute winter kits to 7,000 families (31,000 people) by the end of December in preparation for the coldest winter months. Winter kits contain blankets, shawls for adults, children’s pullovers, slippers for adults and children as well as a floor mat.
“Many of the children have weakened immune systems too and that makes them vulnerable to illnesses such as upper respiratory infections. We are concerned for children forced to sleep in flimsy bamboo structures covered in a thin layer of plastic sheeting.”
*Name has been changed
For interviews please contact Jess Brennan on 0421 334 918