The influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh fleeing persecution in Myanmar continued on Saturday as there was no let-up in violence, what the United Nations termed a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, erupted in Rakhine state on August 25.
Although the flow of Rohingyas towards Bangladesh slowed down in past couple of days, the exodus might increase again as incidents like fire and bomb blasts were reported from Rakhine on Friday, warned Rohingyas taking refuge in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh government and international community continued struggling to cope with the situation as about half a million Rohingyas had so far entered the country and many others were waiting in the borders making it one of the biggest humanitarian problems of the world.
‘Rohingyas are a burden for us but if everyone comes forward, we will be able to face the humanitarian crisis we have been are dealing with tackling for a month,’ disaster management and relief secretary Md Shah Kamal said, adding that the government and international agencies were trying to provide humanitarian assistance to ethnic minority people fled from Myanmar.
UN agencies on Saturday said that about 4.29 lakh Rohingyas entered Bangladesh after August 25.
Bangladesh foreign ministry officials estimated that the influx already took to 8.49 lakh the number of Myanmar people living in Bangladesh.
The UNHCR and the IOM expressed fear that the new influx might take to 10 lakh the number of Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh by the end of the year.
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 the Rohingyas.
Groups upon groups of terrified, starving, exhausted Rohingyas arrived in Bangladesh trekking walking through hills and crossing rough sea and the River Naf on boat and took shelter here and there in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban. They continued surviving on inadequate food and water with lack of sanitation facilities at makeshift settlements or under open sky.
At least 112 Rohingays died as their wooden boat capsized.
According to Border Guard Bangladesh officials, at least five Rohingyas had been killed and 12 injured in landmine blasts planted by Myanmar security forces along their border.
Thousands of Rohingays were half-starving at makeshift shelters under open sky, with a little or no sanitation facilities and medical service. International aid groups and government health service providers expressed fear of an outbreak of diseases.
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 their parents.
Relief works carried out 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.
Cox’s Bazar civil surgeon Abdus Salam said that fear of an outbreak of diseases would prevail till the improvement of sanitation facilities and adequate food for Rohingyas.
Many Rohingyas took shelter at makeshift camps in the reserved forests, felling trees, setting up shanties digging slopes of hills, putting a grave impact on the environment, forest and public health engineering officials said.
The presence of Rohingyas was also putting extra pressure on water sources, which might reduce the ground water level further, they said.
International response was still inadequate to humanitarian agencies’ call for urgent need of $77 million to assist the Rohingyas. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs financial tracking service on Saturday said that $28.4 million funding was received which was 36.9 per cent of $77 million requested.
UN agencies and international humanitarian agencies sought $77 million until the end 2017, as approximate of 300,000 people would needed life-saving support until the end of the year.
But as the more Rohingyas arrived in Bangladesh, international agencies said they would need more money for assisting the ethnic minority group.
‘The $77 million through year end will not be enough. This is a major humanitarian crisis and the appeal will be revised upward,’ International Organisation for Migration spokesperson for Asia-Pacific Chris Lom told New Age on Saturday.
Government and international humanitarian aid agencies continued providing food, shelter, water, emergency latrines and others to the Rohingyas but gaps between the supply and needs remained enormous and local volunteers were trying to fill it up in a scattered way causing chaos.
Cox’s Bazar additional district magistrate Khaled Mahmud, also district focal point on Rohingya issue, said that army troops began assisting local administration in relief distribution and to bring order in the system.
Relief secretary Shah Kamal said that the government allocated 2,000 acres of land at Balukhali and was building 14,000 sheds for Rohingyas. It has allocated 500 tonnes of rice and 36 medical teams are working for assisting Rohingyas.
‘We have allocated Tk 40 crore for repairing and constructing roads and fencing of new camp at Balukhali,’ he added.
Amnesty International in a statement on Saturday said that they assessed three new videos taken inside Rakhine Friday afternoon showing large plumes of smoke rising from Rohingya villages, one of which was already deserted, as well as satellite imagery with smoke visible over burnt-out structures.
Local sources in northern Rakhine claimed that the fires were started by members of the Myanmar security forces and local vigilante mobs, said the statement.
‘This damning evidence from the ground and from space flies in the face of Aung San Suu Kyi’s assertions to the world that what she called military “clearance operations” in Rakhine State ended on September 5,’ said Amnesty International crisis response director Tirana Hasan.
New Age Correspondent in Cox’s Bazar said that body of a Rohingya Hindu was recovered from Talipara canal (a small hilly water stream) at Balukhali.
The deceased, Robindra Paul, 50, was living at Kutupalang West Hindu para, said Ukhia police station officer-in-charge Md Abul Khair.
State minister for post and telecommunications Tarana Halim on Saturday warned that mobile phone operators of the country would face legal actions if they were found involved in selling subscriber identification module to Rohingyas.
At a press conference at the ministry, she also instructed the mobile phone operators not to extend their service beyond the border of the country.
Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader at a programme in Noakhali said that Bangladesh would not response to any provocation by Myanmar despite repeated violation of the airspace by drones and helicopters.
Bangladesh at least twice protested at the repeated violation of its airspace by Myanmar drones and helicopters in the past one month.
Source: New Age