MSF plans emergency healthcare in Bangladesh camps


Dhaka: Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Thursday said that it would launch an emergency healthcare programme for Rohingya refugees in southeastern Bangladesh where tens of thousands of the Myanmar nationals have lived in squalid camps for years.

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“In response to the situation, MSF is in the process of starting an emergency programme providing basic healthcare to children under five years of age, running an outpatient and inpatient feeding programme, and taking measures to improve the water and sanitation in the camps,” the humanitarian organisation said.

It said that MSF was recently alerted to a growing health crisis in Kutupalong camp, located in Cox’s Bazar district, adjacent to Myanmar’s Rakhine state from where tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to avoid political persecution by the junta in Myanmar.

The Rohingyas are struggling to survive unassisted in a makeshift camp. An estimated 20,000 people were found to be living in foul conditions, with little access to safe drinking water or sanitation, according to an assessment by an MSF team in Bangladesh.

“In (the) Kutupalong unofficial camp the water and sanitation situation is appalling and needs to be addressed urgently,” said Michel Becks, MSF water and sanitation expert.

Becks added that with the forthcoming rainy season presenting a threat to the health of the population, urgent intervention is required to prevent the further spread of disease.

The makeshift Kutupalong camp is situated next to an official refugee camp operated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The makeshift camp has reportedly been in existence for over a year, gradually increasing in population size.

The camp is populated by Muslim Rohingyas, a people who for decades have fled the persecution and discrimination they face in Myanmar.

Few of them find the assistance they hope for and many go on to suffer countless indignities in the countries to which they have fled, according to MSF.

Bangladesh has recently asked the Myanmar authorities to begin the repatriation of Rohingyas.

The repatriation process has been stalled for more than five years. According to official estimates, as many as 22,000 Rohingyas are sheltering in camps.

Unofficial counts say more than 200,000 other Myanmar nationals, mostly minority Muslims, have taken refuge in Bangladesh over the past decade.

Dhaka has increased vigilance on the Myanmar border to prevent the influx of the Rohingyas as the Myanmar border guards drive many of their Muslim minorities into Bangladesh, a predominately Muslim country.