Structures in the camps

Camp organisational structures

At a camp level the day-to-day running is carried out through a system of committees.

Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) - The Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) is the Nepalese government authority in Jhapa and Morang districts that implements all government policy in the seven camps. RCU offices are stationed in each camp to oversee administration. Two Nepalese government officials staff each camp, and the district-level RCU office is based in Chandragadhi, Jhapa district.

Camp Management Committee (CMC) - The camp management committee (CMC) is the refugee-run administration in the camps. The CMC is headed by the camp secretary and is made up of representatives from each sector in the camp. The CMC has committees that coordinate birth and death registrations, food distribution, and health programming, and that determine responses to social problems, such as disputes within families or between neighbours.

Camp Secretary - The head of the camp management committee in a refugee camp. The camp secretary is elected by the refugees.

Sector Head - The sector head is an elected member of the refugee-run camp management committee. The sector head is responsible for addressing problems in his or her sector, usually comprised of two to five sub-sectors. He or she forwards unresolved cases to the camp secretary or RCU.

Counselling Board - The counselling board is made up of elected representatives from the CMC. The counselling board serves as a community justice mechanism to resolve day-to-day problems and disputes in the camps.


The refugee community played a central role in setting up their own education system when the camps were first established. Even during the dreadful days at Mai riverbank, before formal camps were set up, Bhutanese teachers, students and parents wanted education for their children. High school students and teachers volunteered to organise classes of over 100 pupils, anxious that the education denied to them in Bhutan should not be lost forever.

The English medium education programme is currently run almost wholly by Bhutanese,teachers and staff with a small number of national resource and management staff. Schools in the camps cater for classes through from pre-primary level to Class X. Classes taught range from the traditional subjects to Dzonkha (the Bhutanese national language). For higher level education (Class 11 and 12 and university) students go to study outside the camps. There is a very limited number of scholarship funds available for further studies and most young people and their families have to find a way of self -funding their higher education, covering the cost of school or university fees, books and living expenses.

In the camps schools pass rates have in general been high but recent statistics suggest that the standard has begun to slip. In the year 2004-5 2547 pupils sat their Class X exams with 2402 passing, giving a pass rate of 94%. In 2005-6 1621 out of 2320 pupils passed their exams, a pass rate of 70%. This drop in standards is the result of an increasing lack of quality teaching staff as more and more Bhutanese have felt obliged to seek better paid employment teaching in private Nepali schools.

Camps teachers are paid a basic incentive salary whereas teachers working outside the camps earn at higher levels enabling them to provide support to the rest of their families. The current teacher turnover rate in the camps is at an all-time high.

As of the 30th November 2006 the number of students attending schools in the camps was 37,403.

Huts and sanitation

Some16,673 low-cost, temporary shelters, made from local materials with an expected lifespan of three years house over 106,000 refugees in seven camps.

Though the camps are now more than ten years old, the demand that structures should only be temporary meant that school buildings and even health posts inside the camps are constructed from flimsy bamboo.

One latrine is provided for two households a few meters away from their dwellings to allow them easy and safe access to latrines with privacy.

The latrines are equipped and ventilated with double pits. When one of the pits is filled, the refugees switch to the other pit with the ventilation pipe.

Sanitation volunteers also assist in repair and maintenance of the latrines. Bamboo and roofing material are provided to refugees and they themselves carry out the repair works on voluntary basis.

The refugees live in very cramped conditions yet despite this the water and sanitation facilities are of a good standard.