An outbreak of diseases is feared in Cox’s Bazar as nearly four lakh Rohingyas, mostly women and children, have entered Bangladesh since August 25 fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and are surviving on inadequate food, water and sanitation facilities at makeshift settlements or under open sky.
Relief works carried out by the international humanitarian agencies and local people are no way near adequate and their trying to arrange temporary toilets are already in a mess and little water supply hardly helps the hapless Rohingyas to survive.
Service providers at Cox’s Bazar general hospital, upazila health complexes, community clinics, satellite clinics and aid providers’ clinics are struggling to cope with the number of patients.
The number of patients taking treatment at outpatient departments and getting admitted to health facilities in the beach town were more than their capacities in the past week.
International aid groups and government health service providers feared an outbreak of diseases if adequate food, water and sanitation facilities could n ot be ensured for Rohingyas living in makeshift settlements or under open sky.
They warned about outbreak of waterborne, viral or microbial diseases as most of the Rohingya patients were suffering from fever, cold and cough, dysentery and diarrhoea.
They also warned about possibility of outbreak of measles and rubella among
children as most of the over two lakh Rohingya children fled to Bangladesh were not vaccinated.
Local people said that position of Rohingyas stranded along the border was worst.
‘Water and sanitation facilities are absolutely inadequate, tens of thousands of them are living in open places and they have no sanitation facilities. It poses enormous health risk and possibility of outbreak of diseases,’ International Organisation for Migration Asia-Pacific spokesperson Chris Lom told New Age on Wednesday.
Cox’s Bazar civil surgeon Abdus Salam said that they were struggling to handle the patients. ‘We cannot deny the possibility of an outbreak of diseases.’
About 3,79,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh fleeing the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine, said UN refugee agency UNHCR on Wednesday.
Bangladesh officials said that with the new arrivals the number of old and new Rohingyas reached to about 8,00,000.
Border Guard Bangladesh and foreign ministry officials estimated that another 1,00,000 persecuted Rohingyas were waiting along the border.
An UN special rapporteur estimated that more than 1,000 people, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims might already have been killed in Myanmar violence.
Rohingyas were now living here and there making makeshift shelters beside roads and highways, cutting hills and forests in bordering areas in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban amid run out of water supplies and insufficient relief and medical services.
Rohingya Abul Hashem, living at a makeshift place at Palungkhali, said that he and his family reached Cox’s Bazar five days ago and there were no latrines for over several thousand of them residing there.
‘We are taking water from nearby pond and collecting rain water,’ he said, adding that many of his fellow countrymen were suffering from fever, cold and cough as they had to walk miles after miles in hills.
Cox’s Bazar civil surgeon Abdus Salam said that sadar hospital, upazila health complexes at Teknaf and Ukhia, 26 community clinics and six sub health centres in the two upazilas were treating patients more than double their capacities.
Kutupalang Community clinic used to provide treatments to 30-40 patients a day and now 200-250 patients were being treated there in a day.
He said that most of the patients were suffering from fever, cold and cough, pneumonia, diarrhoea and pain in the legs.
Abdus Salam said that to prevent an outbreak of measles and rubella, Bangladesh government would begin special immunisation programme in Cox’s Bazasr to vaccinate 1-1.5 lakh under-15 children.
The government would also administer those children with polio vaccine and vitamin a capsule as the Myanmar children might have been out of vaccination coverage, he added.
International aid workers in a report on Wednesday said that people residing in the bordering area of Teknaf, Shawporir Dwip and Sabrang had no or very limited access to safe water and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities which added risks to an outbreak of diseases.
There is a need to urgently scale up Primary Health Care services to cover new and spontaneous settlements and additional population in existing settlements.
Immunisation of new arrivals is a critical priority given high potential for outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases, the report said.
Rohingays flooded sides of Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf road asnd the Marine Drive making makeshift places with plastic sheet. Similar reports poured in from Rohingyas taking shelter at Balukhali and Kutupalang of Ukhia and Shamlapur and Shah Parir Dwip and Sabarang.
Rohinagys said that they were starving and facing crisis of drinking water.
Local people were seen throwing packets of biscuits, chips, in some cases puffed rice, to the Rohingays living by the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf road and the Marine Drive.
At places of the two roads, Rohingays were seen stretching their hands for food when any vehicle passed by.
A Rohingya boy Rafiq Mia, 10, said that he was starving as no relief reached him. ‘All are taken by others; one man gave me food yesterday.’
Elderly Rohingya woman Rehana Begum said that they were living at the mercy of locals.
Cox’s Bazar district Rohingya control room supervisor Seraul Islam said that they were struggling to reach relief to the Rohingyas people as their number was so high.
‘This crisis has taken everybody by surprise and nobody has expected nearly 4,00,000 Rohingyas would enter Bangladesh in just two weeks and a half,’ said Chris Lom
‘Needs are enormous and aid agencies are racing to distribute food from their stockpile which are not very large. They need everything––food, shelter, sanitation,’ he said.
‘International community needs to step up soon,’ he added.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Wednesday alleged that a party relief team was heading for Ukhia refugee camp with 20 truckloads of relief, but the police barred them and kept them confined to Cox’s Bazar town BNP office.
Additional superintendent of police Afruzul Haque Tutul said that the police did not allow distribution of relief by anyone on security ground as many diplomats were visiting the area on Wednesday.
At least eight bodies, including five children and two women, of ethnic minority Rohingyas of Myanmar were recovered from the River Naf at Shah Parir Dwip point of Teknaf.
At least 42 Rohingyas remained missing while 10 others were rescued as two boats carrying them capsized in the river, said Teknaf police station officer-in-charge Main Uddin.
Afruzul Haque Tutul said bodies105 bodies, mostly women and children were recovered from the river since August 25.
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