Bangla Version

Govt struggles to manage Rohingyas

Rohingya refugees react as aid is distributed in Cox’s Bazar on Thursday. — Reuters photo

Government agencies on Thursday continued struggling to manage about half a million Rohingyas recently fled violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh amid slow progress of mandatory registration and gathering them at a camp and scattered relief works while severe health crisis loomed large. The registration of the ethnic minority people of Myanmar entered Bangladesh from August 25 remained slow because of inadequate registration points and manpower, frequent power cut and rain, said official involved in the process.
Government’s effort to bring scattered Rohingya refugees to a new camp in order to gather them together to check their spread to other place and maintain order in relief distribution was proved largely futile.
While international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières also known as Doctors Without Borders on Thursday warned that there was a very high risk of an outbreak of infectious diseases in the Rohingy-occupied areas given the huge and rapidly increasing population as well as low vaccination coverage among the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
‘There is some mismanagement in managing Rohingyas, especially in relief distribution,’ disaster management and relief minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya said, adding, ‘we are working to bring back order, I will say we are 80 per cent successful on the issue.’
Health minister Mohammad Nasim said that government was working hard to provide necessary health service and prevent outbreak of diseases.
The ministers made the statements at separate briefings on Rohingya issue.
Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya said that the government and international aid agencies were trying to ensure all humanitarian assistances for the Rohingyas.
Cox’s Bazar additional deputy commissioner Kazi Md Abdur Rahman said that they were bringing Rohingyas to the new camp at Balukhali of Ukhia but it was taking time as it was a daunting task.
Government and international humanitarian aid agencies continued providing food, shelter, water, emergency latrines and others to Rohingyas but gaps between the supply and needs remained enormous and local volunteers were trying to fill up the vacancy in scattered ways causing chaos in relief distribution.
Thousands of Rohingays were half-starving at makeshift shelters and under open sky with a little or no sanitation facilities and medical service.
Over half of the refuges were children and infants who were crying for food. Thousands of them were victims of indiscriminate violence and were orphaned or separated from their parents.
Heavy rain with intervals for the past five days added to the sufferings of Rohingays. Children, women and aged Rohingyas were the worst suffers as they failed to get through to relief distributors elbowing the crowds. Many of them were seen stretching hands for assistance whenever a vehicle passed by.
UN agencies on Thursday said that about 4.29 lakh Rohingyas entered Bangladesh after the violence, what the United Nations termed a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, in Rakhine state of Myanmar began on August 25.
Bangladesh foreign ministry officials estimated that the number of Myanmar people living in Bangladesh might have crossed 8.49 lakh.
UNHCR and IOM expressed fear that the new influx might take to 10 lakh the number of Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh.
The ongoing ethnic cleansing began in Rakhine on August 25, when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army reportedly attacked dozens of police posts and checkpoints and one military base in Rakhine. The insurgent group, however, said that it made the attacks to pre-empt military attacks on Rohingyas.
The government on September 11 started the mandatory biometric registration of the Rohingyas.
‘So far we have registered about 9,000 Myanmar citizens,’ Department of Immigration and Passports director general Major General Md Masud Rezwan said Thursday afternoon.
He said that they increased registration points to 30 at Kutupalang and Nayapara on Thursday from 10 to speed up the registration.
Several people engaged in the biometric registration process said that the work
was progressing slowly because of frequent power cuts, rains and inadequate registration points and manpower.
Masud Rezwan said that the process was facing several hurdles. ‘We need to suspend registration due to power cuts.’
Without registration cards, the newly arrived Rohingyas would not be allowed to avail bus, water transports and even planes.
Local administration continued efforts to bring scattered Rohingyas at new Balukhali camp to end chaos in relief distribution.
The administration was operating mobile courts to bring Rohingyas to Balukhali under-construction camp. International humanitarian agencies’ situation report estimated that about 3 lakh Rohingays were still living in makeshift shelters at Hakimpara, Mainer Ghona, Tasnimarkhola, Unchiprang, Rubber garden, Thangkhali, and host communities of different areas of Cox’s Bazar Sadar, Teknaf, Ukhia and Ramu upazilas.
Rohingyas took shelter wherever they could, in open space and forests, on hills and roadsides, putting huge pressure on existing water and sanitation facilities.
Local officials and international aid agencies said that Rohingyas were defecating in the open spaces and rain water was washing these human excreta to the ponds and water bodies from where many were collecting water for drinking and others daily needs.
‘These settlements are essentially rural slums that have been built on the side of the only two-lane road that runs through this part of the district,’ said Médecins Sans Frontières’s emergency medical coordinator Kate White, in a statement on Thursday, demanding immediate action to avert massive public health disaster.
‘With little potable water available, people are drinking water collected from paddy fields, puddles, or hand-dug shallow wells which are often contaminated with excreta,’ said the statement.
At MSF’s medical facility at Kutupalong, 487 patients were treated for diarrhoeal diseases in September 6-17.
‘We are receiving adults every day on the cusp of dying from dehydration. That’s very rare among adults, and signals that a public health emergency could be just around the corner,’ the statement said.
‘There is a very high risk of an infectious disease outbreak in the area given the huge and rapid increase in the population, as well as the known low vaccination coverage among the Rohingya community in Myanmar,’ it added.
‘Hundreds of thousands of refugees are living in an extremely precarious situation, and all the preconditions for a public health disaster are there,’ MSF Emergency Coordinator Robert Onus said in the statement.
MSF clinics, between August 25 and September 17, received 9,602 outpatients, 3,344 emergency room patients, 427 inpatients, 225 patients with violence-related injuries, and 23 cases of sexual violence.
Health minister Mohammad Nasim said that that 2,364 Rohingays took treatment for injuries mostly bullet injuries at government health facilities till September 19.
He added that 3,520 patients of diarrhoea, 7,969 of respiratory infection and 2,335 of skin diseases took treatment. ‘We have doubled the capacity of upzaila health complexes at Ukhia and Teknaf’
Nasim said that there was no outbreak of diseases at Cox’s Bazar so far.
He also said that government with assistance for international agencies was conducting vaccination programme among children to prevent polio, measles and rubella.
He also said that government had taken a massive birth control campaign among Rohingyas.
Relief distribution faced difficulties as rainfall, continuing for the past five days, overflowed thousands of makeshift settlements and contaminated water sources such as fountains and ponds, adding to the sufferings of the Rohingyas and exposing them to serious health hazard.
The majority of shelters in the low-lying land surrounding Balukhali, Kutupalang and Thayenkhali were submerged and mudded by rain.
One of the coordinator of Cox’s Bazar district administration Serajul Islam said that local administration allocated 12 locations for private distribution of reliefs within makeshift settlements and host community.
Local authorities also distributed cooked food among Rohingyas from eight spots.

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