Bangladesh braces for new surge

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Nearly 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh in the 15 days since new violence erupted and the United Nations is braced for a further surge, officials said on Saturday.
The exodus figure has jumped about 20,000 in a day and from 164,000 on Thursday. Bangladesh authorities plan to build a camp that could house a quarter of a million people.
“Some 290,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh since August 25,” Joseph Tripura, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, said.
New violence started on August 25 after Rohingya militants attacked police posts in Rakhine, triggering a security forces crackdown. Those who have fled across the border have accused the Myanmar military of staging reprisal attacks on Muslim villages.
Officials said the UN has found more Rohingya in Bangladesh villages and areas which were previously not included by relief agencies.
Agencies are now bracing for a new increase in numbers.
Dipayan Bhattacharyya, acting World Food Programme (WFP) head in Bangladesh, said “the situation is very volatile.”
He added: “We started with planning for an influx of 120,000. Then we made a resource planning for 300,000. The current influx has almost now reached 300,000. Now the WFP and the other UN agencies on the ground may have to review it again if the influx continues unabated.”
Hungry Rohingya are running towards every food truck that arrives in the camps.
Highlighting the uncertainty, Bhattacharyya said: “People are very desperate to get whatever assistance they can get in terms of food, shelter and water. They are deprived of everything. They are desperate for just basic survival.”
The WFP started distributing 25-kilogramme rice sacks to families who have just arrived.
Most of the Rohingya are arriving by foot or boat across Bangladesh’s 278 kilometre border with Myanmar, a fourth of which is made up by the Naf River.
The Rohingya have long been subjected to discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which denies them citizenship.
Myanmar’s government regards them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, even if they have lived in the country for generations.
Refugee camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar already had about 300,000 Rohingya before the upsurge in violence last month and are now overwhelmed.
Tens of thousands of new arrivals have nowhere to shelter from monsoon rains. The latest figure takes the number of Rohingya refugees who have arrived in Bangladesh since earlier violence erupted last October to 377,000. — AFP