Bangladesh starts immunisation drive for refugees, restricts movement

0
878

Bangladeshi authorities on Sunday took steps to restrict the movement of Muslim Rohingya refugees living in crowded border camps after fleeing violence in Myanmar, while that nation’s military chief maintained the chaos was the work of extremists seeking a stronghold in the country.

Bangladesh has been overwhelmed with more than 4,00,000 Rohingya who fled their homes in the last three weeks amid a crisis the UN describes as ethnic cleansing. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who lambasted Myanmar for “atrocities” during a visit to border camps last week, left Dhaka to address the annual UN gathering in New York.

Refugee camps were already beyond capacity and new arrivals were staying in schools or huddling in makeshift settlements with no toilets along roadsides and in open fields. Police were checking vehicles to prevent the Rohingya from spreading to nearby towns in an attempt to control the situation.

The refugees began pouring from Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a Rohingya insurgent group launched attacks on security posts on 25 August, prompting Myanmar’s military to launch “clearance operations” to root out the rebels. Those fleeing have described indiscriminate attacks by security forces and Buddhist mobs.

The Myanmar government says hundreds have died, mostly “terrorists,” and that 176 out of 471 Rohingya villages have been abandoned. Myanmar has insisted that Rohingya insurgents and fleeing villagers are destroying their own homes. It has offered no proof to back these charges.

Ethnic Rohingya have faced persecution and discrimination in majority-Buddhist Myanmar for decades and are denied citizenship, even though many families have lived there for generations. The government says there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya and says they are Bengalis who illegally migrated to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

With the UN saying there are some 2,40,000 children among the refugees living in dire conditions, Bangladeshi authorities have kicked off a massive immunization drive. Abdus Salam, the top government administrator in the Cox’s Bazar district hospital, said that some 1, 50,000 children would be immunized over seven days for measles, rubella and polio.

As the weather fluctuates in Cox’s Bazar between rains and sunny and humid days, many children are suffering from flu and risk pneumonia, Salam said. Many are suffering from diarrhea, dehydration, skin diseases or worse.

Officials in Washington have been careful not to undermine the weak civilian government of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which took office last year, ending five decades of ruinous army rule. The military remains politically powerful and the nation’s constitution enshrines military authority over all security operations.

 

 

 

Source: News agencies