UNICEF stated on Monday that some 200,000 children housed in the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar are at serious health risk as the camp population has crossed 370,000. Housed in makeshift structures, these children have arrived having survived an ordeal that has left them hungry and weak and in need of immediate relief. Their needs go beyond simple nutrition as thousands of children have suffered the trauma of having lived through conflict, many being separated from parents or having witnessed the brutal deaths of family members and close ones.
While the politics of recognising or condemning Myanmar's treatment of this minority group rages on internationally, this large and vulnerable group is in need of safe drinking water and basic sanitation which Bangladeshi authorities working in cooperation with various UN agencies are struggling to meet. UNHCR has started to airlift emergency relief materials for the Rohingya refugees but these supplies will provide aid to meet the needs of only 25,000 refugees. Plans are being undertaken to increase emergency aid to about 120,000 refugees in total, which basically means the vast majority of refugees will not be covered.
The influx of people from Myanmar shows no signs of letting up and the Bangladesh government, despite its best efforts, is overwhelmed and overstretched both in terms of resources and manpower to handle this humanitarian disaster. It is time for consolidated action of all national and international agencies to stave off serious health issues that now exist in the camps. This requires international commitments by the global community, for the sake of humanity, to deter a disastrous health epidemic that threatens refugees, particularly children, who are stranded on Bangladeshi soil.