An improvised stretcher is being carried across open sewer. Two Rohingya refugees are ferrying an old woman lying on a towel. They are hurrying to the nearest medical facility, squeezing through between cars and tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorized vehicles). In some parts of the Kutupalong refugee camp, reaching the nearest first aid point means a four-kilometer journey on foot, up and down the hills.
The area has become an enormous shanty town. It is a city of tents housing 500,000 inhabitants, pitched on small hills up to 30 meters high. In it, food vendors, people running improvised mosques and SIM card dealers are taking turns on pumps to get drinking water. In the valleys, garbage-filled puddles are the children’s only playground. A forest and a road mark the camp’s boundaries.
Kutupalong is an open-air prison. “The refugees are not allowed to leave the camp,” reveals Faisal, a human rights activist, as he squeezes through the tents. “You see that this area is just hills and valleys, which get flooded during the rainy season. Families have died here trying to save the few possessions they had.” A small lake has formed where Faisal is pointing, and children are splashing around in the water, while a family is building another tent on the bank. “The camp had existed before, but the latest wave of refugees, that of October 2016, had the highest impact.”