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Rohingya crisis: Locals worry about future

Rohingya refugees wait in line during a food distribution at the Thangkhali refugee camp in Ukhia on Tuesday. — AFP photo

Local people in Cox’s Bazar are worried about their future as over half a million Rohingyas have already crossed the border into the district fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar putting immense strain on infrastructure, services and low paid job market.
Local people said that they continued providing assistance to Rohingyas, but they were concerned about their future as the massive Rohingya influx was putting extra pressure on food, shelter, sanitation, market price, natural resources and transportation cost.
The United Nations in its Rohingya crisis response plan warned about conflict between host communities and Rohingyas, if immediate steps of scaling up relief activities were not taken.

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees travel with their belongings in a mini-truck ferrying them to the Thankhali refugee camp in Ukhia on Sunday. — AFP photo

‘Comprehensive response is required that takes into account all Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar, and their hosting communities, to save lives and mitigate intra- and inter-group conflict within Rohingya communities based on status and between Rohingya and host communities,’ read UN Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response Plan in the first week of October.
Cox’s Bazar civil surgeon Abdus Salam and Department of Public Health Engineering in Cox’s Bazar assistant engineer Mohammad Nasarullah said that they were struggling to cope with situation.
Ukhia’s Palangkhali Union parishad chairman Gafor Ahmed Chowdhury and Teknaf’s Whykhang union parishad chairman Noor Ahmed Anwari demanded immediate steps for repatriation of Rohingyas and keeping them in a place barring them from mingling with Bangladeshis until repatriation.
‘Our future is bleak, as Rohingyas are causing price hike, transport fee hike,’ Gafor said, adding that the local poor would also lose jobs as Rohingya labours would be cheaper.
Cox’s Bazar refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said that they would bring all Rohingyas into a mega camp to prevent their mingling with locals.
On UN warning about conflict between locals and Rohingyas, Abul Kalam said that such apprehension was there but no such situation had arisen so far. ‘We are on alert about possible conflicts,’ he said.
New Age correspondent in Cox’s Bazar reported that Rohingyas continued to enter Bangladesh on Tuesday through different land border points at Anjuman Para and sea border at Shah Parir Dwip of Teknaf.
Rohingya new arrivals alleged that Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs continued to terrorise them into leaving the country.
They said that Buddhists were looting frequently and taking away their food grains forcing them to leave the country.
Many from Buthidaung in Rakhine are also taking dangerous sea route to flee to Bangladesh risking life.
Bodies of 15 more Rohingyas were washed up on Shah Parir Dwip on Tuesday after a boat carrying desperate Rohingyas sank in the River Naf Sunday night, taking the confirmed death toll to 29 –– 15 children, 13 women and 1 man.
The boat with at least 60 Rohingyas sailed from Dongkhalir Char in Buthidaung capsized in the River Naf near Golar Para Char of Shah Parir Dwip.
Teknaf police station officer-in-charge Md Mainuddin said that of the bodies, 15 were recovered on Tuesday, 12 on Monday and two Sunday night.
The incident took to 162 the number of fleeing Rohingyas, mostly women and children, drowned in the bay and the River Naf since August 25.
According to UN estimation on Tuesday, 5,21,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh in the past seven weeks in the new influx what the United Nations called the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency.
Officials estimated that the new influx already took to 9.39 lakh the number of Myanmar people living in Bangladesh.
Local people and leaders, however, said actual number Rohingyas entering Bangladesh would be much more.
Rohingyas fled unrest in Rakhine state in 1978, 1991-92 and October 2016 and almost all of them too shelter at Teknaf and Ukhia areas of Cox’s Bazar, which housed two registered Rohingya camps and several others unregistered camps.
The new influx began after Myanmar security forces responded to Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army’s reported attacks on August 25 by launching a violence that the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing.
The number of Rohingyas in Teknaf and Ukhia upazilas, about 9 lakh, has already become double of the number of Bangladeshis there, 4.7 lakh.
One after another waves of Rohingya influx has overcrowded Teknaf and Ukhia upazila’s health facilities and put extra pressure on water sources, which would reduce the ground water level further, said local government officials and elected local government representatives.
Rohingyas are posing threat of outbreak of diseases and hampering education, they said.
Since August 25, when latest round of Rohingya influx began, market price increased significantly, transportation costs doubled, number of patients at health facilities tripled, they said.
Rohingyas have completely destroyed forest of at least 1,500 acres or six square kilometre area and living in 12 square kilometre area of reserved forests.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on forest and environment ministry at its meeting in parliament complex on Tuesday was informed that Rohingyas destroyed forest trees of Tk 151 crore for erecting their makeshift shelter and collecting wood for fuel.
Committee member Yahya Chowdhury said that Rohingyas felled trees of Tk 150.87 crore, a report from forest department showed.
He said that the parliamentary body recommended plantation of new trees at vacant places where Rohingyas were not living and providing them with less fuel-consuming cookers.
The way Rohingyas made shelter on hill slopes and cutting forests, a normal landslide and cyclone could call on heavy damages to the area, said Noor Ahmed.
He said tourism business in beach town Cox’s Bazar which is most desired tourist spot.
‘Prices of coarse rice and flour increased significantly and vegetable prices doubled,’ said Gafor. Noor Ahmed echoed him.
Action Against Hunger in the rapid market assessment in Cox’s Bazar in the first week of October said that prices of all main food commodities, inclduing rice, flour, pulses, soybean oil, potato, sugar and salt, increased.
The market assessment said that the price of rice increased by 12.55 per cent, flour 10.22 per cent, lentil 11.58 per cent, potato 19.22 per cent and salt by 11.30 per cent since August 25.
Mohammad Nasarullah said that demand of safe drinking water for Ukhia and Teknaf in the normal period was about 5 crore litre per day. ‘As so many Rohingyas have taken shelter in the localities after August 25, the demand of additional water just doubled,’ he added.
International aid workers cautioned that the presence of Rohingyas was also putting extra pressure on water sources, which might reduce the ground water level further.
Local people also expressed fear of deterioration of law and order situation in the locality if the Rohingyas could come outside the camps and look for jobs.
Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader on Monday said that the government was working for repatriation of the Rohingyas, who were given shelter considering humanity.
Quader, also the ruling Awami League general secretary, said that the law enforcing agencies remained alert so that the Rohingyas might involve in criminal activities.
Both the union parishad chairmen said that many old Rohingyas were working as agriculture labourers, fishing workers and rickshaw-pullers.
With physical features very similar to those of Bengalis, Rohingyas can easily mix with the Bangladeshi community. Unless they disclose their identities, they can get job, said Gafor.
Report of the Needs and Population Monitoring of Undocumented Myanmar Nationals prepared by international aid groups on September 25 said that over 50 per cent of old Rohingyas are living working as day labours and a quarter on fishing.
The Bangladesh government with the assistance of World Health Organisation and UNICEF is set to begin world’s second largest oral cholera vaccination in Cox’s Bazar on Tuesday to avert any outbreak of the diseases.

Source: New Age

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