2 lakh children at great risk | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 13, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:28 PM, September 13, 2017

Rohingya influx 3,70,000 AND COUNTING

2 lakh children at great risk

Many sick, need health care; global concern, condemnation on as China backs Myanmar

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The Unicef yesterday said more than 200,000 children in Cox's Bazar's Rohingya camps are at great risk, as the number of newly arrived refugees from Myanmar rose to 370,000.

"You see children who have not slept for days, they are weak and hungry. After such a long and challenging journey, many children are sick and they need health care right away," Jean Lieby, chief of child protection of Unicef Bangladesh, said in a statement.

The children are traumatised, and they need protection and psychological support, he said. 

"We also see pregnant mothers, and we know that many babies were born since their mothers' arrival in Bangladesh."

Rohingyas have been fleeing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine State as Myanmar's security forces began a crackdown in response to the Rohingya insurgents' attacks on police posts and an army base on August 25.

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Yanghee Lee said the latest violence may have left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Rohingyas. Myanmar, however, says the number of dead is around 430, the majority of them "extremist terrorists" from Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

Rohingyas allege that the Myanmar forces burned down thousands of Rohingya houses, a claim denied by Myanmar government.

As Rohingyas stream into Bangladesh, the authorities have been struggling to provide food, shelter, water and medicine to the huge of number of refugees in such a short period of time.

Jean Lieby said, "This is a growing humanitarian crisis and children are at the heart of this crisis. Sixty percent of all refugees are children."

Referring to the rising number of makeshift shelters, he said it's very important to provide the refugees with safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities to prevent water-borne diseases.

There are many vulnerable people in the camps with high percentage of children, women and elderly who are living in a limited space in very poor hygiene conditions.

 "Water borne diseases are extremely dangerous for children in this type of situation. We need to prevent that from happening," said Jean Lieby.

Unicef said it has identified 1,128 children who are separated from their families, and this number is expected to rise significantly in the coming days.

For urgent support to these children, Unicef requires a fund of $7.3 million. However, more is needed as the refugee population is growing, it said.

Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund said at least 13 percent of the Rohingya women fleeing violence in Myanmar are either pregnant or lactating mothers needing life-saving maternal and newborn health care services.

“Women do not stop getting pregnant or having babies just because an emergency hits,” said Iori Kato, acting representative of UNFPA Bangladesh that works on reproductive health and gender development.

It sought emergency funding of $13 million for reproductive health and gender-based violence response for Rohingya women and girls.

“Now, more than ever, we must be able to scale up our life-saving interventions to meet them.” Iori Kato added.

US COMMISSION CONDEMNS

Strongly condemning the attacks on civilians by Myanmar's security forces, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called upon Aung San Suu Kyi to denounce the atrocities against Rohingyas.

"We call upon Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to unequivocally condemn the atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State", USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark said in a statement on Monday.

The commission strongly urges Myanmar to collaborate with international partners like the UN and humanitarian organisations, as well as regional stakeholders including Bangladesh and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to ensure that Rohingya Muslims and other vulnerable populations immediately receive adequate resources and compassionate care.

"For decades, Bangladesh has given shelter to Rohingya refugees, estimated at as many as 500,000 people before the latest crisis," said Daniel Mark.

He mentioned that the Myanmar security forces razed entire villages, slaughtered families, and even planted landmines in the path of fleeing refugees, creating "a staggering humanitarian disaster.

The USCIRF chair urged the Myanmar government and the military to uphold their international humanitarian and human rights commitments and end their attacks on civilians in Rakhine State.

He also condemned the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army's violent actions against state forces.

GLOBAL DIVISIONS EMERGE

International divisions emerged yesterday ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on the worsening refugee crisis, with China voicing support for a military crackdown that has been criticised by the US, AFP reports.

Beijing's intervention appears to be aimed at heading off any attempt to censure Myanmar at the council when it convenes today. China was one of the few foreign friends of Myanmar's former junta.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "We condemn the violent attacks which happened in Rakhine State in Myanmar."

"We support Myanmar's efforts in upholding peace and stability in Rakhine State. We hope order and normal life there will be recovered as soon as possible," he said, hoping that the international community would support Myanmar's efforts.

China's support for Myanmar comes when the international community increased pressure on Myanmar. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the violence in Myanmar seemed to be a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Sweden and Britain on Monday requested a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on the “deteriorating situation” in Myanmar's Rakhine State. The meeting is scheduled to be held today, according to Reuters.

“It's a sign of the significant worry that Security Council members have that the situation is continuing to deteriorate for many Rohingya who are seeking to flee Rakhine State in Burma and move into Bangladesh,” Matthew Rycroft, UK permanent representative to the UN, told reporters on Monday.

On August 30, the Security Council discussed the situation behind closed doors. In a rare letter to the council earlier this month, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Yesterday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came down hard on Myanmar's de facto leader and Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi, and said Myanmar's crackdown on Rohingyas marks the "death of the Nobel Peace Prize".

"A cruel government, at the top of which sits a cruel woman who was awarded a Nobel prize, kills innocent people, sets fire to them, destroys their houses and displaces them and no tangible reaction is seen," he said in a speech in Tehran.

UNHCR AIRLIFTING RELIEF

The UNHCR has started flying in emergency relief materials for Rohingya refugees.

A chartered Boeing 777 yesterday morning brought 91 tonnes of aid materials from UNHCR's global stockpile in Dubai. In the afternoon, another flight carried aid donated to the UNHCR by the United Arab Emirates.

"The two emergency flights are meant to meet the immediate aid needs of some 25,000 refugees. Further flights are being planned, ultimately delivering emergency aid for some 120,000 refugees in total," said the UNHCR.

MORE RESOURCES NEEDED

At a press briefing on Monday, UN secretary general's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that additional resources are needed as the scale and speed of the influx of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh overwhelmed the capacity on the ground.

"Aid agencies have prepared a preliminary response plan of $77 million to deliver urgent, life-saving assistance to over 300,000 new arrivals," he said.

"There is no indication that the pace of these arrivals is slowing," Dujarric added.

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