“Their horrific experiences defy comprehension, yet they are the reality for nearly one million Rohingya refugees,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres after a visit last week to the largest refugee camp in the world, located in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazar. Since August 2017, nearly one million Rohingya, Myanmar’s largest mainly-Muslim minority group, have fled to the bordering nation of Bangladesh after the launch of ethnically motivated violence by state military and local militia.
While wealthier countries continue to refuse to open their borders, an overcrowded and under-resourced refugee population faces a new challenge as heavy monsoon rains barrel towards Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been recorded to experience intense cyclonic storms and some of the harshest monsoon rains on earth. In order to meet urgent needs of Rohingya refugees, United Nations aid agencies and their humanitarian partners have appealed jointly for $951 million, of which only 26 per cent has been reportedly secured.
The UN maintains that insufficient funding means that malnutrition will continue to prevail at camps due to inadequate access to clean water, sanitation and health services along with refugee children missing basic education. Assessments of health facilities have recognized 207 for vulnerability to rain with 25 per cent of them scheduled for relocation. The capacity for medical aid depends on the availability of resources as the vulnerable population will need continued services for reproductive, maternal and child health.
According to UNICEF, an estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees have been identified as being most at risk. While aid agencies continue efforts to move families to safer areas, the fact is that with hundreds of thousands of people on the ground, moving them all is impossible. People are living on bare, sandy slopes prone to landslides and flooding. Fiona MacGregor, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration at Cox’s Bazar explained a project to protect against flooding during the monsoon season in which Rohingya are paid five dollars a day to help flatten the hills near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. The Government of Bangladesh continues to prohibit the construction any form of permanent structure in the hopes to deter the long-term refuge of the Rohingya.
Describing this as one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent times Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, World Health Organisation South-East Asia Regional Director stated, “No single agency or the Government of Bangladesh alone can meet the massive health needs of such a large population group.” As aid staff on the ground continue to provide basic food, shelter and sanitation, the truth of the matter is that lives will be lost if many agencies do not come together and provide necessary resources to keep ground operations running in the desperate Rohingya Camps.
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