What you need to know about the persecuted Rohingya people in Mayanmar and Bangladesh
The Rohingya are a mostly Muslim ethnic group rendered stateless by the nation of Myanmar in 1982, when the majority Buddhist nation rejected their citizenship despite generations of historical roots in the Rahkine state on its western coast. Although they've endured systematic oppression and violent persecution for decades; in recent years religious and ethnic tensions have escalated.
In August 2017, after an armed Rohingya retaliation resulted in the death of twelve Myanmar security forces, government crackdowns against the Rohingya turned into full fledged ethnic-cleansing with the military burning Rohingya villages and attacking and killing civilians en masse.
Although previous violence had already displaced more than 200,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh; in the two months since August 25th, over 600,000 additional Rohingya survivors, including approximately 350,000 children have fled into the Cox's Bazaar district of Bangladesh.
Those who have made the journey are surviving in squalor in makeshift camps, in need of lifesaving food, water, sanitation, security, medical care, vaccines and shelter. Many of them have been violently assaulted and had family members murdered in the attacks. Thousands remain stranded in Myanmar without access to basic services, safety, or means to cross the border. The international community and aid organizations are scrambling to help meet basic needs for health and security.
Exacerbating the chaos and health concerns, is the fact that most of the camps are flooded from a severe monsoon season already responsible for at least 1,200 deaths in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Contaminated water and unsanitary conditions increase the likelihood of fatal outbreaks.
how our partners are responding
Even before this crisis escalated, 4.8 million people in Bangladesh lived without access to clean water and 53% were without access to adequate toilets or sanitation. WaterAid has more than 30 years of working across Bangladesh and has resumed efforts in the Cox's Bazaar district to provide water, sanitation and hygiene support in selected Rohingya refugee camps. They are currently working to address the immediate needs of approximately 60,000 individuals by providing community toilets, water points, and separate shower facilities and hygiene kits for women and girls.
Oxfam's response has reached nearly 180,000 people in the existing camps of Katupalong and Balukhali with clean drinking water, emergency toilets, sanitation facilities, plastic sheets, water pumps, food rations and other essential supplies. They are aiming to assist over 200,000 in their initial response. They are also supporting the Bangladesh government and other humanitarian partners to ensure newly established camps will meet the necessary humanitarian standards. Like WaterAid, Oxfam is also concerned about potential abuse and exploitation of women and girls and is emphasizing the need for privacy in health and hygiene for women, girls and nursing mothers.
Doctors without borders / MSF
Since this sudden influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, Doctors Without Borders teams have treated more than 30,000 patients in the Cox's Bazaar district. They have increased their staffing on the ground from 200 to 1,000 and are currently treating about 2,000 patients per day through their existing medical facility in Kutupalong along with other mobile clinics and health posts in the makeshift settlements. The most common ailments are respiratory tract infections and diarrheal disease due to poor hygiene conditions in the settlements; but they have also treated wounds incurred from the violence in Myanmar. A new impatient facility is being constructed in Balukhali camp with a focus on mother and child heath. MSF is also working to improve water and sanitation services to prevent the spread of disease. They've built 200 latrines, 20 boreholes, a gravity flow system; and are trucking over 100 cubic meters of water to the settlements daily. By year's end they hope to install 400 additional wells and 1,000 latrines in the Balukhali and Kutupalong camps.
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Header Photo Credit: Aurélie Marrier d'Unienville / Oxfam - A Rohingya man carries a bag of donated food aid in Balkuhali camp, Bangladesh.