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Rohingya children under calamity risks: UNICEF

IOM helps BD cops tackle trafficking threat to Rohingyas

January 17, 2018 00:00:00

COX'S BAZAR, Jan 16 (UNB): The health and safety of more than 520,000 Rohingya children living in overcrowded camps and informal settlements in the district face possible greater risk in the upcoming cyclone and monsoon seasons, UNICEF warned on Tuesday. "As we get closer to the cyclone and monsoon seasons, what is already a dire humanitarian situation risks becoming a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of children are already living in horrific conditions, and they will face an even greater risk of disease, flooding, landslides and further displacement," said UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder.

The UNICEF official said unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene conditions can lead to cholera outbreaks and to Hepatitis E, a deadly disease for pregnant women and their babies, while standing water pools can attract malaria-carrying mosquitos. Keeping children safe from disease must be an absolute priority.

More than 4,000 suspected cases of diphtheria have been reported among the refugee population, with 32 deaths, including at least 24 children.

UNICEF and partners have launched a diphtheria vaccination campaign, and are working to provide children and families with access to safe water and sanitation facilities, but overcrowding and the growing risk of extreme weather increases the risk of further outbreaks.

In addition to the increased threat of disease outbreaks, the cyclone season brings an increased risk of flooding and landslides, a direct risk to children's lives.

Even a moderate storm could have a devastating impact, with little time to prepare ahead of the start of the cyclone season in March, according to UNICEF.

Tropical cyclones generally strike Bangladesh in two seasons, March through July, and September through December, with the greatest number of storms arriving in May and October.

In May last year, Cyclone Mora barreled through the region, destroying approximately one quarter of the makeshift shelters in Rohingya camps and causing widespread damage.

In addition, the regular monsoon rains starting in June could bring devastating landslides and floods.

There is a serious risk that shelters, water systems, latrines and other infrastructure could be severely damaged in storms or floods, says the UNICEF.

It said the government of Bangladesh has generously taken in more than 650,000 Rohingyas since August 25 already and has been working with Unicef to deliver lifesaving support to the most recent and previous influx of Rohingyas as well the host community in Cox's Bazar.

Another report adds: Human trafficking experts from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, have come forward to help Bangladesh police tackle the threat of human trafficking being faced by thousands of vulnerable Rohingyas living in local settlements in Cox's Bazar district.

Some 55 police and other law enforcement officers will attend a workshop today (Wednesday) run by IOM counter trafficking specialists aimed at raising awareness of different forms of trafficking and identifying ways in which the authorities and IOM can work together to prevent trafficking, identify victims and provide victim support.

The training is one of several IOM counter trafficking initiatives in Cox's Bazar, said the IOM.

"Rohingya children, women and men are targeted by traffickers who seek to exploit them in various situations including the sex industry, as unpaid domestic help, and in other forms of bonded labour," said IOM counter trafficking specialist Emmy Nurmila Sjarijono.

There is no single solution to ending trafficking and it is vital that aid agencies and the authorities work together to build skills and share information about this extremely serious issue," said the specialist.

The workshop follows a pilot IOM counter trafficking workshop with Bangladeshi police organised in December 2017.

Hundreds of majis, the community leaders within the camps, are among those currently receiving IOM information in verbal and picture form about how to identify possible trafficking attempts involving men, women and children, and what to do if they suspect that people are being targeted.

IOM also offers counselling and support services to survivors of trafficking and shelter facilities for those who have escaped or been rescued from trafficking situations.

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