Bangladesh said on Thursday it had treated more than 2,350 Rohingya refugees for serious injuries sustained during ethnic violence in Myanmar, including bullet and machete wounds and trauma from landmines.
About 422,000 refugees from the stateless Muslim minority have fled Myanmar’s westernmost Rakhine State since Aug. 25, overwhelming camps along the border ill-prepared for an influx of desperate civilians.
Aid efforts are being stepped up, with a Boeing jumbo jet laden with 100 tons of supplies leaving Saudi Arabia for Bangladesh and the U.S. announcing another $32 million in assistance. “The UNHCR has assured food, healthcare services and shelter facilities for the Rohingya refugees, and the WFP [World Food Program] assured food for 400,000 Rohingya over the next four months,” Bangladesh’s relief and disaster management minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya said on Thursday.
Local authorities and aid agencies in Cox’s Bazar district have been struggling to provide food, shelter and medical treatment for the Rohingya, who recounted tales of torture and rape by Myanmar troops and Buddhist militias as they escaped. Bangladesh authorities said nearly 14,000 refugees had been treated in hospital and mobile medical clinics for illness and injury, including 2,364 people for wounds consistent with violence.
“These include injuries from bullets, mines or sharp weapons such as knives,” said Enayet Hussain, a senior health department official.
Bangladeshi officials believe anti-personnel mines have been planted by Myanmar security forces to prevent Rohingya from trying to return to their villages, and several deaths from these banned weapons have been reported.
Hussain said local hospitals and medical clinics were “overstretched” but health authorities were “prepared to face the crisis” described by aid agencies as a humanitarian catastrophe.
Thousands of refugees had been treated in hospital for respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, a serious threat due to the lack of sanitation and clean drinking water in the camps. Nearly 200 Rohingya women have given birth since arriving, while an estimated 20,000 others were believed to be pregnant.
Hussain said nearly 34,200 children had been vaccinated against rubella and another 18,410 for polio.
Bangladesh has deployed the army to restore order and fast-track the construction of shelters for thousands of refugees still living in the open exposed to monsoon rain. But despite promises to build shelter for 400,000 people within 10 days, there was no sign of any army construction work underway near the proposed site.
“They’ve been here for two days, but they’re not here to help us. They are just doing their own thing,” said Gul Bahar, 50, gesturing to nearby soldiers underneath a plastic tarpaulin. “We’ve been here 4 or 5 days. We had to run for our lives from Myanmar. We suffered a lot, here at least we are safe.”
Bangladesh’s army chief General ABM Shafiul Huq visited a registration booth at the main refugee camp of Kutupalong on Thursday. Authorities have vowed to register all new Rohingya arrivals but so far 5,575 have been recorded, Maya said. Another 30 registration booths opened Thursday to speed up the process.