Bangladesh PM seeks help for Rohingya crisis as exodus tops 400,000
WHO, UN children’s agency launched vaccination campaign against measles, rubella and polio
DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina headed for the UN General Assembly on Saturday to plead for global help coping with the Rohingya crisis, as the refugee deluge escaping a crackdown in Myanmar topped 400,000.
The prime minister left a day after her government summoned the Myanmar envoy for the third time to protest over its neighbor’s actions. Hasina is to demand more pressure on Myanmar during talks in New York.
Bangladesh has been overwhelmed by Rohingya Muslims since violence erupted in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Aug. 25.
The UN said Saturday that the total number of people to have entered Bangladesh having fled the unrest had now reached 409,000, a leap of 18,000 in a day.
Conditions are worsening in the border town of Cox’s Bazar where the influx has added to pressures on Rohingya camps already overwhelmed with 300,000 people from earlier waves of refugees. The UN said two children and a woman were killed in a “rampage” when a private group handed out clothes near a camp on Friday.
Hasina is to speak at the UN on Thursday.
“She will seek immediate cessation of violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar and ask the UN secretary-general to send a fact-finding mission to Rakhine,” a spokesman for the prime minister, Nazrul Islam, told AFP.
“She will also call the international community and the UN to put pressure on Myanmar for the repatriation of all the Rohingya refugees to their homeland in Myanmar,” he said.
Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali said: “We will continue international pressure on the Myanmar government to immediately end its ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.”
As tensions mount between the neighbors, the Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the Myanmar charge d’affaires in Dhaka to protest at alleged violations of its airspace by Myanmar drones and helicopter.
The ministry warned that the three violations between Sept. 10 and 14 could lead to “unwarranted consequences.” Myanmar did not immediately comment. The Bangladesh government earlier protested to the embassy over the planting of land mines near their border, which have killed several Rohingya, and the treatment of the refugees.
UN leader Antonio Guterres has also said Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya could amount to ethnic cleansing.
The deaths of the three refugees backed warnings by UN agencies and other relief groups that the crisis could get out of control.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UN children’s agency on Saturday launched vaccination campaigns against measles, rubella and polio. They estimate that 60 percent of the new arrivals are children.
Most Rohingya, who spent more than a week trekking cross-country from Rakhine to reach the Bangladesh border, have found existing camps overflowing and have instead settled on muddy roadsides.
Many families do not have a shelter over their heads and refugees have been fighting for food and water deliveries.
“The needs are seemingly endless and the suffering is deepening,” said UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado.
Outside the giant Balukali camp, Jamila Khatun, 60, sat under a blue plastic bin bag held up by bamboo poles with her children and grandchildren as she recounted her journey to Bangladesh.
She said she handed over her jewelry to a Bangladesh boatman two days ago to get across the river frontier from Myanmar.
“We walked by night for three or four days to avoid the military and then came over by boat.
A Rohingya refugee boy looks on as he stands in his makeshift tent in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday. (Reuters)