The monsoon season looms in Rohingya

Rohingya refugees fled massacres in Myanmar. Now they risk being killed by cholera in Bangladesh.

The monsoon season looms in Rohingya

World Bulletin / News Desk

Lukia fled Myanmar with nothing but a swollen belly. For a grueling three days and nights, she walked with her elderly mother and a nephew across the border to Bangladesh about five months ago. “During the violence, everything was burned,” she says. “My husband, brother, and father were burned. That’s why we came here.”

Lukia, who thinks she’s in her early 20s, along with nearly 700,000 other Rohingya have fled here since last August to escape a military crackdown in Myanmar’s western coastal state of Rakhine. Hundreds of Rohingya villages were razed to the ground in addition to widespread murder and rape, which the United Nations has since described as bearing the “hallmarks of genocide.”

Most now live in refugee camps, under the flimsy tarpaulin and bamboo tents in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, a small area in the southeast corner of the country, perched on steep slopes that were once forested hills. Lukia has since had her baby, who was delivered in her family’s tent by her mother. She was at a health post when I met her inside the sprawling refugee camp because her 3-month-old had diarrhea an indication of things to come.

The monsoon season, which begins in earnest in a few weeks’ time, is predicted to bring with it a disease, landslides, flash flooding, and death. The refugee camps are located in one of the most frequently flooded regions of one of the most flood- and cyclone-prone countries in the world. In 1970, Cyclone Bhola killed at least 300,000 people; in 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed 10,000. Despite their efforts, aid agencies fear that they will be unable to protect the Rohingya from yet another crisis, one that could end in utter catastrophe, further terrorizing refugees who have endured unimaginable atrocities.

“What is the worst-case scenario? I have no idea,” says Didier Boissavi, a U.N. employee who monitors water, sanitation, and hygiene in the camps. Cholera and acute watery diarrhea are endemic in Bangladesh and it gets worse during the rainy season. While two cholera vaccination campaigns have been completed in the refugee camps and host communities, there are concerns that an outbreak of the disease is inevitable because of poor sanitation and water quality, coupled with close living conditions and predicted latrine flooding.

“Why are we putting so much emphasis on a vaccine?” asks Khairul Islam, a doctor and the country director for WaterAid Bangladesh. “Maintaining water quality hasn’t been addressed with enthusiasm,” he adds. According to the joint response plan for the Rohingya crisis — a plan that brings together more than 130 partners, including dozens of international aid organizations, and outlines funding and response requirements — because of the current density of the population, “any outbreak has the potential to kill thousands.”

Source: Foreign Post

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Haziran 2018, 10:14