Tuesday 26 September 2017

Bangladesh aid services 'on the brink' as 123,000 Rohingya refugees flee Burma

A Rohingya family reaches the Bangladesh border after crossing a creek on the border with Burma (AP)
A Rohingya family reaches the Bangladesh border after crossing a creek on the border with Burma (AP)
Rohingyas living in no man's land collect water donated by Bangladesh Red Crescent members (AP)

A massive influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Burma has pushed aid services in Bangladesh to the brink, with established camps already beyond capacity, aid workers said.

The UN refugee agency said 123,000 refugees have fled western Burma since August 25.

"The numbers are very worrying. They are going up very quickly," said UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan.

The agency pleaded for assistance, saying it needs more land to set up new camps to accommodate refugees who are arriving hungry, traumatised and in need of medical assistance.

"Most have walked for days from their villages - hiding in jungles, crossing mountains and rivers with what they could salvage from their homes," the agency said. "An unknown number could still be stranded at the border."

Many said their homes had been set alight and Burmese soldiers fired indiscriminately around their villages in Rakhine state.

In the border town of Kutupalong, an elderly woman bleeding profusely from where her lower right leg had been blown off in an explosion was bundled into a rickshaw to be taken to hospital.

Family members said she was wounded in a land mine blast. Her left leg and parts of her hands also appeared seriously wounded.

Tens of thousands of new refugees have been taken in at established camps that have been housing Rohingya since the 1990s, but those camps have reached "breaking point", the UN refugee agency said.

Thousands of others are sheltering in emergency tents, in makeshift camps or out in the open wherever they find space.

Aid agencies said there is an urgent need for emergency shelters and medical aid as more refuges arrive.

The UNHCR's new refugee estimate was the result of aid workers conducting new, more accurate counts that revised Monday's estimate up from 87,000, Ms Tan said.

Rohingya Muslims have long faced discrimination in majority-Buddhist Burma.

They began streaming into Bangladesh after August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked Burmese police posts, prompting security forces to respond with days of "clearance operations" they said were aimed at rooting out insurgents from villages.

Burmese security officials and Rohingya insurgents accuse each other of committing atrocities in the past week.

AP

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