The United Nations and the Bangladeshi government are stepping up efforts to immunize Rohingya refugees living in overcrowded camps and makeshift shelters, as the number of suspected measles cases is on the rise, said the UN on Friday. Measles, a childhood killer disease which can be particularly dangerous among unimmunised and malnourished children, is one of the major health risks for the refugees who have fled their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, said the office of the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, Xinhua reported. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Rohingya refugees continue to flee into Bangladesh, although at a slower rate than in previous weeks.
As of Wednesday, 613,000 refugees had arrived in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya rebels on Myanmar police and security posts touched off retribution. More than half of new arrivals are staying in the Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site, which merges several pre-existing settlements with new land allocated by the Bangladeshi government, said OCHA. As of Friday, the Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response Plan has received $143.5 million, or a third of requirements. Donors pledged a total of $360 million for the response last month, and the United Nations urges donors to disburse this money as quickly as possible.
On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed his call for unfettered humanitarian access to Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State and demanded the dignified return of the Rohingya refugees to their homes. “We insist on the need to make sure, not only that all violence against this population stops, but also we need to insist on unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of Rakhine State, including the northern part of this region,” he told reporters here in New York prior to his trip to Bonn, Germany for a UN climate conference.
“We insist on the need to reassert the right of return … for all the population that fled to Bangladesh and to the areas of origin — not to be placed in camps, not having access to the places where they left.” Guterres emphasized the importance of addressing the root cause of the problem, which relies largely on the problems related to citizenship for the Rohingyas — an Indo-Aryan Muslim minority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar — and to the legal status of this population “that has been discriminated and that is stateless at the present moment.”