Thousands of Rohingyas fleeing violence in their homeland Rakhine State of Myanmar are now living in makeshift camps and open spaces in Bangladesh in a dire condition as inadequate international aid leaves their basic needs unaddressed.
International response is still inadequate to humanitarian agencies’ call for urgent need of $77 million to assist the Rohingyas who have continued to enter Bangladesh fleeing violence, what the United Nations termed a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, in Rakhine since August 25, said UN agencies.
Humanitarian aid agencies in Cox’s Bazar in a situation report on Wednesday said that they continued providing basic food assistance, shelters, water and emergency latrines and others to Rohingays but ‘gaps remain enormous with urgent needs unmet.’
Heavy rain with intervals for the past four days added to the sufferings of Rohingays, who were in crisis of food, water and sanitation facilities at makeshift settlements or under open sky.
Bangladesh government and international aid agencies are providing assistance which was inadequate for over 4.22 lakh Rohingyas and local volunteers were trying to fill up the vacancy in scattered ways causing chaos in relief distribution.
Children, women and aged Rohingyas were the worst suffers as they failed to get through to relief distributors elbowing the crowds. Many of them were seen stretching hands for assistance whenever a vehicle passed by.
UN refugee agency UNHCR Asia and Protection Issues communications officer Duniya Aslam Khan and International Organisation for Migration spokesperson for Asia-Pacific Chris Lom said that international response was inadequate so far.
Almost two thirds of urgently needed assistance sought from international community remained unmet till Wednesday, according to an UN agency.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs financial tracking service on Wednesday said that $27.6 million funding was received which was 35.8 per cent of $77.1 million requested.
‘The response is indeed inadequate and therefore we will be asking for more international support,’ Duniya said.
‘The appeal will be revised upwards, because more money will be needed,’ said Chris Lom.
The international community made slow and inadequate response while Bangladesh government and local and international humanitarian agencies continued struggling to provide assistance to 4.22 lakh Rohingyas entered Bangladesh and their number kept rising every day.
Thousands of Rohingays were half-starving at makeshift shelters under open sky, with a little or no sanitation facilities and medical service.
Over half of those were children and infants who were crying for food. Thousands of them were victim to indiscriminate violence and were orphaned or separated from their parents.
On September 9, humanitarian agencies called for assistance of $77 million because of the influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh.
Duniya said that with an estimated 4.21 lakh Rohingya refugees having arrived in Bangladesh since 25 August, the needs grew tremendously while the number of refugees kept rising.
She added that UNHCR would be issuing an appeal later this week for the emergency humanitarian response in Bangladesh till the end of the year.
‘This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the recent years, with so many people arriving within three weeks, we are fully aware of the humanitarian challenges,’ she said.
‘Every agency is trying hard to reach assistance to the most vulnerable refugees,’ she added.
UNHCR emptied its warehouse in Dhaka and is now airlifting more relief assistance from Dubai and Amman.
‘Of course Bangladesh alone cannot cope with such a huge number of people without international support and thus we stand ready for assisting the local authorities,’ Duniya said.
On Wednesday, the United State pledged $32 million, Saudi Arabia $15 million and South Korea $1.5 million for emergency relief operation for the Rohingyas
Cox’s Bazar district administration received relief materials from Turkey, Malaysia, India, Morocco, Indonesia and Iran till Wednesday.
European Union, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and some other countries promised assistance for Rohingyas through different international humanitarian groups working in Bangladesh.
UN agencies on Wednesday said that 4.22 lakh Rohingyas entered Bangladesh after August 25. Bangladesh foreign ministry officials estimated that the number Myanmar people living in Bangladesh might crossed 8.40 lakh.
UNHCR and IOM expressed fear that the new influx might take to 10 lakh the number of Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh.
The ongoing ethnic cleansing began in Rakhine 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.
New Age correspondent in Cox’s Bazar said that in absence of adequate international aid activities, relief goods were yet to reach thousands of Rohingyas living in makeshift camps and host communities far away from roads and registered and unregistered camps in Cox’s Bazar and bordering areas of Bandarban.
Relief distribution faced difficulties as heavy rainfall, continuing for the past four days, overflowed thousands of makeshift settlement and contaminated water sources such as fountains and ponds, adding to the sufferings of the Rohingyas and exposing them to serious health hazard.
Heavy rain caused by a low formed over coastal regions of Bangladesh was falling with intervals and Met office in Dhaka recorded 214 mm rainfall in Cox’s Bazar between Saturday night and Wednesday noon.
The majority of shelters in the low-lying land surrounding Balukhali, Kutupalang and Thayenkhali were flooded by rain.
Local administration continued efforts to bring all scattered Rohingyas at new Balukhali camps to end continued chaos in relief distribution.
One of the coordinator of Cox’s Bazar district administration Serajul Islam said that local administration allocated 12 locations for private distribution of reliefs within makeshift settlements and host community.
Bangladesh government has decided to launch a massive birth control campaign among Rohingyas amid fears that the refugee population could bulge as surges of ethnic minority Myanmar nationals hit the country’s south-eastern region.
‘We have already mobilised six medical teams, three in Teknaf and three others in Ukhia to create awareness among Rohingyas about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control methods,’ health minister Mohammed Nasim said.
He said the ministry took initiatives to provide them short-term birth control kits which were expected to protect them from STDs as well.
The development came as doctors earlier identified one of the Rohingya refugees to be a HIV carrier at their Kutupalong camp in Ukhia while the patient was kept in an isolated place to be treated properly.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that dozens of midwives were deployed in camps to deliver babies and help young mothers.
‘The sheer number of people pouring in, the magnitude of the situation is quite overwhelming,’ said Sathya Doraiswamy, chief of health at UNFPA.
The midwives have delivered about 200 babies since the recent influx of refugees began August 25, Doraiswamy said.
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