Rohingya refugees who just arrived from Myanmar carry their newborn babies as they make their way to a relief centre in Teknaf, near Cox’s Bazar on Tuesday. — Reuters photo
Almost all the estimated 5,09,000 Rohingyas entering Bangladesh to flee violence in Myanmar and save life since August 25 continued half-starving in absence of adequate relief assistance while no end to the influx was still is sight.
About 90 per cent of them reported eating just one meal a day, said the United Nations in a fact sheet on Rohingya crisis at a press conference of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNICEF in Cox’s Bazar on Tuesday.
It said that over half of the Rohingyas were living in sites with no access to healthcare and 30 per cent had no access to water.
Over half of the cases of gender-based violence reported by the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar were sexual assault. ‘This is exceptionally high,’ said the fact sheet.
‘The humanitarian needs on the ground are vast,’ it said, adding that 1,50,000 women and children needed support to prevent and treat malnutrition, 3,20,000 Rohingyas needed immediate access to clean water and sanitation.
‘The conditions in the camps at the moment are terrible. We need to do a lot more to scale up what we have done so far,’ United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock said at the press conference.
‘What we want to do is to make sure that the tragedy of the Rohingyas is not magnified and amplified by a human catastrophe, a health catastrophe and we will only ensure that doesn’t happen if we are successful in seeking support from the international community,’ he added
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said that they were asking for the help and the resources they needed urgently to scale up their response. ‘This is a humanitarian issue and this is a strategic issue,’ he said.
New Age correspondent in Cox’s Bazar reported that another Rohingya youth, Nurussafa, 26, died in blast of a landmine planted by Myanmar security forces along the border opposite to Sap Mara Zhiri of Naikhyangchari upazila in Bandarban.
Border Guard Bangladesh battalion 31 commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel
Anwarul Azim said that one Rohingya was killed in a landmine blast in Myanmar side.
According to border guard officials, at least seven Rohingyas were killed and over a dozen were injured in this month in landmine blasts.
UN agencies estimated that 5,09,000 Rohingyas had so far fled to Bangladesh to save life since August 25, when the violence which the United Nations termed a textbook example of ethnic cleansing erupted in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Officials estimated that the influx already took to 9.27 lakh the number of Myanmar people living in Bangladesh.
The ongoing ethnic cleansing began on August 25, when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army reportedly attacked dozens of police posts and checkpoints and one military base in Rakhine. The insurgent group, however, said that it made the attacks to pre-empt military attacks on Rohingyas.
The United Nations said that the situation spiralled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.
Bangladesh government and international community continued struggling to cope with the situation.
Terrified, half-starved, exhausted Rohingyas continued arriving in Bangladesh in groups trekking through hills and crossing rough sea and the River Naf on boat and taking shelter wherever they could in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban.
Many Rohingyas took shelter at makeshift camps in reserved forests, felling trees, setting up shanties digging slopes of hills, some of then took shelter at overcrowded registered and unregistered camps.
Relief works by the government, international humanitarian agencies and local people were still not sufficient and their efforts to arrange temporary toilets were already in a mess and little water supply hardly helped the hapless Rohingyas to survive, said local people.
Rohingya woman Rahima, 40, at Unchiparang said that she and her five children were taking meal at night only. We all wait for relief for a meal. If it is not available we need to go to sleep without any meal.’
‘My youngest son, 10-month-old, always cries for food and I can’t bear it,’ she said adding that it was a common story of several thousand Rohingyas living there.
Dozens of children and women in Shah Parir Dwip, Sabrang and Teknaf upzila town were seen stretching hands for help between Sunday and Tuesday.
‘Would you please give me some food,’ asked Farhad, 10, at Teknaf town. He said on Sunday night that he got no relief for previous two days. ‘I am living on what you are giving,’ he said showing some money in his right hand.
Rohingya woman Sarwara was found at Teknaf town on Tuesday seeking help in order to arrange food for her seven-member family.
They said that relief collection in the camps and other adjacent place was tough and it was enough for one or two meals. ‘So I have to seek help from others beside reliefs,’ said Sarwara.
Over half of the Rohingyas were children and infants who were crying for food. Thousands of them were victim to indiscriminate violence and were orphaned or separated from parents.
No end to the influx of Myanmar nationals into Bangladesh was in sight till Tuesday as the exodus was on the rice.
New Age correspondent in Cox’s Bazar added that Rohingyas continued entering Bangladesh through Palangkhali land border and Shah Parir Dwip sea border.
Sabarang union parishad chairman Nur Hossain said hundreds of Rohingyas entered Bangladesh through different point of Shah Parir Dwip Monday night. ‘They were sent to the relief camp,’ he said.
Local people said that they saw large plume of smoke on the Myanmar side of the border opposite to Ulbunia Monday night and Tumbro, Lambabil, Unchiprang and Whykhaong on Tuesday.
Bandarban deputy commissioner Dilip Kumar Banik said that the district administration began sending Rohingyas living in different areas of Naikhyangchari upazila to Balukhali camp at Ukhia of Cox’s Bazar.
We would send all Rohingyas to Balukhali camp, he said.
There are at least 26,000 Rohingyas at Naikhyangchari.
Agence France-Presse reported that more than 10,000 Muslim Rohingya had massed in Myanmar near a crossing point into Bangladesh, Myanmar media said Tuesday, apparently poised to join an exodus across the border due to food shortages and fear of attacks in their Buddhist-majority homeland.
Over 10,000 ‘Muslims’ have arrived between Letphwekya and Kwunthpin village to enter Bangladesh, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Tuesday.
Authorities have tried to reassure fleeing Rohingyas that they are now safe in Rakhine, but they want to leave ‘of their own accord’, the report added.
Violence appears to have ebbed in northern Rakhine, although independent reporting is still blocked by an army lockdown.
But fear has unsettled many of the Rohingya who remain, trapped between Myanmar’s army and their hostile Rakhine neighbours and cut off from aid agencies.
After a brief lull in arrivals, the Bangladesh border guards said 4,000-5,000 Rohingyas were now crossing each day.
‘They don’t want to stay [in Myanmar]. They want to come here … they are being told to leave,’ Lieutenant-Colonel SM Ariful Islam told AFP.
Food is also running out, with villagers too fearful to tend to their crops in case they are attacked by their neighbours.
‘In some villages they are scared to pass by Rakhine villages,’ Chris Lewa from Rohingya advocacy group the Arakan Project told AFP.
On occasions when the Rohingya village chief decides to leave, the whole hamlet will follow, emptying a village ‘in just a few hours,’ she said.