New arrivals hit 646,000, diphtheria spreading in camps

Rohingya influx continues

Our Correspondent | Sunday, 10 December 2017

COX'S BAZAR, Dec 9: Influx of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladeshis still continuing.
Over the last seven days at least 20,000 Rohingya people crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar through the Anjumanpara and Shahporirdip border points after crossing the Naf river. With this number of new arrivals the total influx stood at 646,000, related sources in the border areas said.
Traumatised fearing for their lives, the refugees had camped out in the open in an area of no-man's land between the two countries. They crossed at low tide and were met by Bangladeshi border guards.
Official of the UN migration agency International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Cox's Bazar said that the refugees, many of them vulnerable women and children who had been walking for days, crossed into Bangladesh's Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas assisted by the border guard members.
The refugees are fleeing the violence, which has convulsed their communities in Northern Rakhine State since late August. The refugees join over 820,000 already living in some safety in Cox's Bazar, where over 626,000 (6.26 lac) have arrived since August 25.
Every day at least 1,000 fleeing Rohingya people reached the crossing point and were assisted by the Bangladeshi authorities. They were being assisted by local authorities. Medical services, including vaccinations, were being provided, along with screening by humanitarian organisations for those refugees judged to be extremely vulnerable so that they could receive timely specialised assistance.
UNB adds: The number of Rohingyas who fled to  Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 25 has now risen to 646,000, a big jump from the estimated 626,000 last week, says the United Nations.
"Although this is a jump from the estimated number of 626,000 we had earlier this week, the rise is due to a better assessment," said Stephane Dujarric, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General quoting his colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Dujarric, quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO), said diphtheria is rapidly spreading in camps in Cox's Bazar.
"As of today, more than 110 people have contracted the disease, with six fatalities. Most of the people affected are children," he said in a press conference at the UN headquarters on Friday.
The WHO says people must be relocated immediately to limit the spread of diphtheria.
"It is working with the Health Ministry (of Bangladesh) and other partners to scale up prevention," said the Deputy Spokesperson.
Routine immunisations targeting children up to the age of six began on Saturday and older age groups cannot be immunised currently, due to a shortage of vaccines, according to the UN office.
The Deputy Spokesperson said their colleagues at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said they were arranging to have talks with Bangladeshi authorities over an agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was signed last month, on the voluntary repatriation of Rohingyas.
"As UNHCR has previously said, all refugees have a right to return, but this should happen voluntarily and only when people feel the time and circumstances are right. And as you recall, the UN was not a party to that agreement," Dujarric said.
The UN migration agency IOM runs a reception area at Balukhali border of Cox's Bazar. There emergency assistance was being provided in cooperation with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UNWOMEN along with various local volunteer organisations and members of the local community.
Upon entering Balukhali, the refugees received emergency shelter materials, dignity kits, sandbags to support self-settlement and mitigate the impact of heavy rainfall and flash flooding as well as to create retaining walls meant to reduce the risk of landslides.
Several Rohingya people explained they had intended to leave Myanmar sooner, but had to wait to harvest and sell their grain to raise funds for their journey.
IOM, the UN refugee agency UNHCR and other responding organisations are working to improve living conditions in existing settlements and advocating alternative solutions to accommodate the influx of refugees.
Biometric registration of 749,860 Rohingya refugees was completed until Thursday in seven refugee camps out of 12 in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas of Cox's Bazar.
According to official sources, the Passport and Immigration Department registered about 0.75 million Rohingya refugees so far. Additional District Magistrate Khaled Mahmud confirmed this.
Registration of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals is going on in full swing in Balukhali camp, Kutupalong-1, Kutupalong-2, Nayapara, Thainkhali-1, Thainkhali-2 and Shamlapur refugee camps.
The registration started on September 11. During the registration, the Social Welfare Department detected 38,373 orphan children in 12 refugee camps.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) expects a further 35,000 new Rohingya arrivals in Bangladesh in next few weeks.
Newly-arrived Rohingya people and border sources said due to international pressure Myanmar army stopped persecution of them last month. But army men and Buddhist terrorists started persecution again in Moungdaw, Bhucidong and Rachidong townships of Rakhine state in recent days.
Newly-arrived Rohingyas said they reached Shahporir Dip of Teknaf by bamboo-made rafts crossing the Naf river on Wednesday night. They hail from different villages of Moungdaw area. The Rohingya people said after an interval of more than a week, army and Buddhist terrorists jointly started persecution of them.
They further said army men and their associates were harvesting Rohingyas' paddy and shut down shops of rice and other foods in different areas. Army men created an artificial food crisis in most areas of Rakhine state, they added.
However, Cox's Bazar district administration restricted transportation of Rohingya refugees by any Bangladeshi oarsman or broker from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
Rohingya people are also crossing the Naf river by rafts made of jerrycan and bamboo in the absence of any boat. A raft takes five to six hours to cross the Naf river.
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