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Updated On: Saturday, 21 July 2018
Development Issues

UN Agencies Update on Rohingya refugees

Content by: South-South News

9 January 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — The United Nations and its humanitarian partners are urgently requesting access to Rakhine State in Myanmar in order to better assess the worsening conditions of the Rohingya people.

More than half a million of Rohingyas have fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in the northern Rakhine province for neighboring Bangladesh following a military offensive in August 2017 which provoked the exodus.

Having recently returned from a trip to Rakhine State, the UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado told journalists in Geneva on January 9 that “UNICEF and our partners still don’t know what the true picture is of the children who remain in Northern Rakhine, because we don’t have enough access”.

Before August, there were already around 307,500 Rohingya refugees living in camps, makeshift settlements and with host communities, according to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR). A further 655,000 are estimated to have arrived since August.

Mercado said that “what we do know is troubling. Prior to August 25 we were treating 4, 800 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, these children are no longer receiving this life saving treatment. All 12 of the outpatient therapeutic nutrition centers run by our partners are closed, because they were either looted, destroyed or the staff can’t get to them”.

With so many Rohingya children being isolated, UNICEF urgently requests to get access across Rakhine state in order to reach out to all children and to bring them protection assistance.

UNICEF’s spokesperson added that “while the eyes of the world are on the situation in Northern Rakhine and in Cox’s Bazaar, over 60, 000 Rohingya children remain almost forgotten, trapped in 23 camps in Central Rakhine that they were driven into by violence in 2012”. Mercado added that “pre-existing restrictions on the movement of people into and out of the camps were tightened first after the October 26 outbreak of violence and again after August 2017, making it even harder for humanitarian workers to deliver aid to children and making already poor conditions in the camp even worse.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 60,000 pregnant women are living in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazaar, a district in Bangladesh, close to 16, 000 deliveries are expected to occur over the next 3 months. Approximately two thirds of pregnant women have no or limited access to gynecological or obstetrical care services.

Christian Lindmeier, WHO’s spokesperson, said, “The latest diphtheria figures as of 7 January are 3,649 clinically suspected cases with a total death of 30. The last death reported on 2 January, so that has a case fatality rate of approximately one percent. Nearly 350,000 children between 6 weeks and 15 years were given diphtheria containing vaccines”.

Since November 2017, the World Food Program (WFP) has provided 150, 000 people in Rakhine state, most of them in central Rakhine, and at least 33, 000 people in northern Rakhine with food items.

Bettina Lüscher, Spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP) said, “In January we are working with the local partners on the ground, with local NGO’s, with government authorities to distribute the food. We are coordinating closely with the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, so that we don’t overlap”.

Lüscher added that “it is still hard for us to have a comprehensive picture of all the needs. Everybody needs more access and we are obviously extremely concerned about the food insecurity and the undernutrition in Rakhine state which was already bad before the outbreak of the violence”.

The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country. Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, with the majority living in Rakhine state.

But the government of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, denies the Rohingya citizenship and even excluded them from the 2014 census, refusing to recognize them as a people.


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