Sunday, February 18, 2018 | ePaper

Red Cross and UN aid workers are urgently needed

Humanitarian crisis is too enormous for Bangladesh to handle alone

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Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
Officials on Wednesday urged the global aid agencies to intensify their relief operation for thousands of Rohingya refugees who crossed into Bangladesh following a renewed military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
They said the humanitarian crisis is too enormous for Bangladesh to handle alone the aid distribution and provide urgently needed medical care requiring immediate support from global agencies.
 "We're struggling to cope with the nonstop influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. So, we're turning to the international community for help," Kazi Abdur Rahman, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Cox's Bazar, told The New Nation yesterday.
He said the international aid agencies including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations (UN), would have to step up their aid operations massively in response to the humanitarian crisis.    Some 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have already arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing renewed violence in Myanmar. They took shelter at the Kutupalong and another existing cramped makeshift Rohingya camp, near the border town of Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar district. More than 500,000 others have already been living there, who earlier fled conflict erupted since the early 1990s.
As these camps have already gone beyond capacity, the new arrivals were staying in schools or huddling in makeshift settlements along roads and in open fields where basic resources, including food, clean water and medical aid, were insufficient.
Rohingyas have also overwhelmed the government hospital in the Cox's Bazar, with 80 per cent arriving with gunshot wounds as well as bad infections.  "Hundreds of Rohingyas are arriving in the hospital with gunshot wounds, severe infections or childbirth complications. Majority of the them are women and children," Dr. Shaheen Abdur Rahman Choudhury, the head of the Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital, told The New Nation. He said that the hospital was scrambling to deal with the huge number of Rohingya patients due to limited medical facilities and doctors. We have 20 doctors in our team.
 "Many in need of urgent medical care for their injuries, infection and sickness. But we have nothing to do in this regard unless medical teams of aid agencies are to be sent to the hospital to deal with the situation," he added.    The United Nations appealed for $77 million and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) pleaded for $18 million in foreign aid to help feed and shelter tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees.  "This is not enough for food and shelter for Rohingyas. We need Tk 8000 crore per year to provide them food and shelter. It would be a huge burden for Bangladesh unless the international community extends help for Rohingyas," said Kazi Abdur Rahman. He also said the government will provide 2000 acres of land for a new camp in Cox's Bazar district to help shelter new arrivals.
Kazi Abdur Rahman said different aid agencies have already started aid operation to respond to the humanitarian crisis. But those are inadequate against the needs of thousands of Rohingyas.    
Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh are in urgent need of medical and humanitarian assistance, as an already dire situation along the border with Myanmar worsens, according to the international medical humanitarian organization -- Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
It said Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh are living in unsafe, overcrowded and unhygienic conditions with little protection from the elements.  "We've not had something on this scale here in many years," said Pavlo Kolovos, MSF head of mission in Bangladesh.
 "Our teams are seeing streams of people arriving destitute and extremely traumatized, and who have had no access to medical care. Many of the arrivals have serious medical needs, such as violence-related injuries, severely infected wounds, and advanced obstetric complications. Without a scale-up of humanitarian support from global agencies, the potential health risks are extremely concerning. More efforts are also needed to tackle high levels of malnutrition among the Rohingya already in Bangladesh preceding this influx.
 "We are alarmed that hundreds of thousands of people still in Myanmar have no access to healthcare and that there are no actors currently able or allowed to respond on the ground," said Kolovos.

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