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20,000 Rohingya in no-man's land battle hunger, disease.

SHEHAB SUMON | Special to Arab News Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar are forced to live in abysmal conditions in a temporary camp near Bangladesh's border with Myanmar. (AN photo) Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar are forced to live in abysmal conditions in a temporary camp near Bangladesh's border with Myanmar. (AN photo) 2 photos BANDARBAN, BANGLADESH: In front of them, border guards block entry to Bangladesh. Behind them, the Myanmar Army plants deadly land mines to prevent their return. Bandarban is the exotic jewel in Bangladesh's tourist crown. Today, it is a nightmare no-man's land for 20,000 Rohingya desperate for food, water and medical help. Shab-e-Meraj, 26, crossed the shallow Tombru river holding her two-month-old daughter Noor Kaida, who was suffering from fever. She sought help from the Medecins Sans Frontieres medical aid agency. About 300 men and women, all thin and starving, waited in queues to see the MSF doctors. Meraj used to live in the village of Raimmyakhali in Rakhine state in Myanmar. She said soldiers torched their homes with the help of Buddhist villagers. It took her three hours to walk to the border. Her husband Mohammed Noor, a day laborer, fled here with nine members of his family when the bloodshed in Racine began. Now they survive mostly on dry food offered by villagers and local volunteers. Meraj said: "There is no way I can return to that hell." For kilometers, as far as the eye can see, there are makeshift houses on the hilltops of this border area, where 20,000 Rohingya have been trapped for more than a week. "We are trying our level best to provide them with food and drinking water," said local government official Jahangir Aziz. "This morning I have distributed 2kg of rice, lentils, onion etc for each family that took shelter in my district." However, food supplies in the village market had been exhausted because of the refugees, he said. "I am afraid of deterioration in the law and order situation. All the educational institutions are closed for Eid Al-Adha but classes will resume from tomorrow. I don't know how the students will attend the classes. My whole area has turned into a dustbin." The local authorities have set up four tube wells to provide clean drinking water for the refugees, and several more are planned. A local philanthropist started work on providing 10 lavatories. Small trucks carrying relief goods move through the narrow roads. Aid agency volunteers are trying to provide basic support, and Red Cross workers distribute drinking water in plastic bags, but they cannot cope with the demand. The trapped Rohingya are among 150,000 who have fled Myanmar, according to AFP. Many are sleeping in the open air and are in dire need of food and water after walking for days to reach safety. "There is an urgent need for emergency shelters and for land to build these shelters on," said Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency. "These people have walked for days. Some of them haven't eaten for days since they left. They survived on rain water and groundwater." Bangladeshi rights campaigner Nur Khan Liton said a "massive humanitarian crisis" was unfolding. "People are staying in refugee camps, on the roads, school yards and under open sky. They are clearing forest to create new settlements. There is an acute crisis of water and food," he said.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Sep 6, 2017
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