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Rohingya Muslim crisis: Safe in a camp, Rohingya children face death by malnutrition

Mohammad Sohail, a Rohingya child cries uncontrollably as he waits to see a doctor -- one of the thousands of Rohingya children at risk of an agonizing death from malnutrition even after reaching the safety of refugee camps in Bangladesh.


  |  Updated On : November 11, 2017 10:32 AM
Rohingya Muslim crisis: Safe in a camp, Rohingya children face death by malnutrition

Rohingya Muslim crisis: Safe in a camp, Rohingya children face death by malnutrition

New Delhi :  

It seems that an ongoing perplexing situation of Rohingya Muslim has no end and it has been becoming more dreadful day-by-day.

Rohingya-world's most persecuted minority, flee from Myanmar's war-torn Rakhine state to Bangladesh. But it seems that they do not get any kind of relief except that they get a refugee camp to stay.

Mohammad Sohail, a Rohingya child cries uncontrollably as he waits to see a doctor -- one of the thousands of Rohingya children at risk of an agonizing death from malnutrition even after reaching the safety of refugee camps in Bangladesh.

His father died in the crackdown on Muslims in Rakhine state which forced his mother, Hasana Begum, to flee with Mohammad and his brother joined some 610,000 other Rohingya who has fled since August.

The family barely had a food on their seven-day trek across hills and through jungles to the Bangladesh border where they arrived two weeks ago, and it has taken its toll.

Mohammad is just 21 months old, due to a scarcity of food, his ribs could be clearly seen. 

"We walked for days through continuous rain, cold and heat. Both my sons suffered from fever and diarrhoea and have since lost appetite," Begum told AFP.

This is not only a malnourished child, there are at least 50 other malnourished children like him at the Balukhali camp medical unit.

"The condition of many of these children is very critical. Most of their parents don't even understand the extent of the problem," said paramedic Shumi Akhter.

However, the medical teams are distributing special high-nutrition baby food packs so Rohingya infants can build some muscle. 

The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, estimates that 25,000 children in the overcrowded Rohingya camps are suffering from severe malnutrition that could easily become a major killer.

"The Rohingya children in the camp -- who have survived horrors in Rakhine state and a dangerous journey here -- are already caught up in a catastrophe," said Edouard Beigbeder, the country head of UNICEF.

"Those with severe malnutrition are now at risk of dying from an entirely preventable and treatable cause. These children need help right now," Beigbeder said.

More than half of the huge influx into the refugee camps are children. Some have died there, but the UN said it had no information on whether malnutrition was a cause.

The ration queues last between six and eight hours and it is difficult for widows like Begum who have no extended family getting food.

"I can't take them to collect the relief as I cannot carry my sons and the heavy sack," the 23-year-old said.

"Every neighbor is busy with their own problems. Nobody has spare time to babysit," she said.

"But I get panicky there until I get back home because these boys are everything I have left," she said.

A visit to shanties at Balukhali showed that most refugee families survive on a diet of rice and lentils, with occasional vegetables and dried fish.

"Such a diet is not sufficient for toddlers or breastfeeding mothers. In this camp, the number of malnourished babies is already over the emergency margin line," aid worker Fazle Rabbi told AFP.

According to the charity workers, the situation aggravated further when refugees started selling food to local Bangladeshis in a bid to raise cash for household goods and other essentials.

"Everyday we buy a lot of food from the refugees. We pay them to cash in exchange for rice, lentil, sugar, salt, cooking oil, milk powder and baby food," a Bangladeshi wholesaler in the nearby town of Ukhiya said.

Refugees who admitted selling food said they needed cash to buy firewood, clothing, and other necessities.

As per the refugees, they needed cash to buy firewood, clothing, and other necessities. The Rohingyas are not allowed to seek work in Bangladesh. Refugee Karim Majhi said: "We don't have any choice but to sell food." 


First Published: Saturday, November 11, 2017 10:18 AM

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