Rohingyas go without food

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Little aid from int’l agencies
FROM NATIVES TO REFUGEES: Leaving their homes in Shahab Bazar area of the Rakhine state there days ago, children and elderly people in the photos walk around 30 kilometers to enter Bangladesh yesterday. They are among the thousands of Rohingyas fleeing attacks by Myanmar government forces and managed to cross the remote terrain of their native country without any money or other belongings. They were given food, though sparse, by local volunteers on their arrival at Kanjapara in Cox’s Bazar along the Naf River. Photos: SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS

Publication Date: 9 September, 2017 00:00 00 AM  
Media: The Independent
Original Link: Rohingyas go without food
E-paper Link: Rohingyas go without food

Despite an influx of Rohingyas over the past two weeks, national and international aid agencies are yet to provide relief to most of the Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation has created unhealthy conditions in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban of the bordering districts. One runs into scores of hungry and helpless faces everywhere. Moreover, the refugees simply get drenched in rain, as there are no sheds where they can take shelter from the downpour. The plight of Rohingyas who have taken refuge in remote areas and those who have found a place in refugee camps run by aid agencies appear to be the same.

In the wake of the recent influx, several United Nations (UN) agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had repeatedly appealed to the Bangladesh government to open the borders for the fleeing Rohingyas.

In response to such appeals, the government is now letting the helpless Rohingya enter. As a result, the number entrants into Bangladesh have now reached almost 270,000, while another 52,000 are waiting on the no-man’s land cross over. But the aid agencies are not forthcoming with enough aid for them.

Moulvi Aziz Uddin, Union Parishad chairman of Baharchora, told The Independent on Friday, “Over 70,000 people have entered through different points in my union. I have not seen any aid agencies here so far. The Rohingyas are starving.”

A few aid agencies are reportedly doing some work in their camps, but hundreds of thousands Rohingyas have taken shelter at different places including local schools, madrashas, houses of local people and makeshifts shelters but have so far remained beyond the reach of aid.

The Rohingyas, who entered after walking for two to 10 days from their villages, hiding in jungles, trekking over hills and wading

through rivers, are hungry, exhausted and ill. They undertook the dangerous journey to reach Bangladesh in the hope of a safe home but are left starving.

The UN organization, World Food Programme (WFP), distributed only biscuits to just about 28,000 people, while the UNHCR said on Friday that 270,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh.

“An estimated 270,000 refugees arrived in Bangladesh in the last two weeks,” said Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency.

“We have distributed high-energy biscuits and hotchpotch to 28,000 people. We are making preparations to distribute rice,” said Mahreen Ahmed Khan, communication officer of WFP.

UNHCR, a key organization for refugees, said it would apply for more funds after getting a vivid picture of the new arrivals. It said it was unable to estimate the funds needed without assessing the needs of the newly arrived Rohingyas.

But, it seems, that till the funds arrive, the Rohingyas will be starving.

This correspondent visited the registered and unregistered Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf, and makeshift camps at Balukhali, Thang Khali, Palong khali, Battoli in Ukhiya upaizla, Chakdala, Ashartoli, and Fultoli in Naikhonchhari upazila, and Raikhkong, Unchiprang, Kanjarpara, Jhimonkhali, Lambabeel, Shaplapur and Whykong.

Everywhere, the Rohingyas said they were starving, as aid agencies were yet to reach them. This correspondent, too, found no aid organization in these places. Around 1am on Friday, this correspondent spoke to a family at Unchiprang’s proposed Madrasha field, where seven members of the family were huddled beneath a tarpaulin but struggled to keep themselves from the rain. They were shivering with cold, as muddy water flowed into the little tent they had managed to erect.

The male member of the family, Karimullah, 53, Bosu Ullah, hailing from Maungdaw, said, “We reached here four days ago after spending five days on the way. We have not eaten anything the whole day. During the last three days, some passersby give us some food. No aid agency has come to us.”

At the same place, Abdus Salm, hailing from Buthidaung, was waiting under an open sky with eight members of his family even as it rained heavily. They had no tarpaulin to spread over their heads.

He said, “We started walking to Bangladesh from Buchidaung of Rakhine on August 26 and reached here today evening. We have no food or no money to buy food.”

Fatema Khatun, 65, wife of Nurus Salam, hailing from Marullah of Maungdaw, has taken shelter at the Kutupalong registered refugee camp in Ukhiya. She told The Independent on Thursday, “We came here along with 14 members of my family, including my three daughters. We are yet to receive any food or water. We are living on some biscuits.”

Yeakub Nabi and Kaim Molla, both putting up at the same camp, narrated a similar tale of woe. About 40,000 new Rohingyas entrants have taken shelter at two camps run by the UNHCR.

“After crossing the border, we are waiting here for three days. Now we are fasting. My two sons are crying for food, they are very hungry,” said Ansar Begum, 27, who hailed from Shilkhali at Shaplapara in Teknaf.

When asked, Vivian Tan, spokesperson of the UNHCR, told The Independent at the Kutupalong camp, “We are surprised seeing such an influx. After assessment of the situation and the number of the arrivals and their demands, we will appeal for funds.”

“We are giving food to the people who took shelter in our camps,” said Joseph Tripura, spokesman of UNHCR Bangladesh. Now thousands of Rohingya are staying on Teknaf roads. They are seen begging for food and water from pedestrians. The locals are trying to help them with food, but no aid agencies are around.

Rohingyas at Raikhong, a hilly, makeshift camp in Ukhiya, where over 60,000 of them have taken shelter, said, the UN Immigration for Migration (IOM) distributed 3,000 tarpaulins and has also provided medical assistance with the help of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

The Rohingyas who have taken shelter by the roadside, the local school and madrasha said no representative of any agencies had come to them.

Contacted, Khaled Mahmud, additional district magistrate of Cox’s Bazar district, told The Independent, “The aid agencies are not working as per expectation in feeding the helpless people.”

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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