Overwhelmed aid workers in refugee camps fear “environmental disaster”

Written by By Staff Writer

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has warned that the huge influx of refugees fleeing Myanmar is threatening the safety of its volunteers working in the sprawling camps.

The federation says the city of Cox’s Bazar, which is hosting the largest refugee crisis in the world in recent years, is under the “specter of an environmental disaster”.

The federation points to the extreme levels of poverty, malnutrition and water-borne disease affecting the “majority-Muslim” Rohingya population on the island of Maungdaw.

Myanmar authorities denied nearly all access to journalists and aid agencies in recent months, but their accounts of brutal and widespread army brutality have shocked the world.

On a night in August, images of Myanmar troops handing out guns and syringes during a meeting with Rohingya leaders in the northern part of the Rakhine state, just outside the borders of Bangladesh, sparked international outrage.

The atrocities of the country’s military have also forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where they live in makeshift camps.

International aid groups have warned the hundreds of thousands of refugees are stranded in the midst of an “environmental disaster,” because the camps lack adequate sanitation, electricity and sanitation, as well as housing.

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“We are aware of serious problems created by this irregular population,” the Red Cross said in a press release this week.

“The tents, for example, can’t be placed up in the correct form (which leads to overcrowding) because we cannot tell the inhabitants when to take them down because of the conditions inside,” it added.

Relief workers in the region have expressed similar concerns in the past.

The Rohingya are the most persecuted religious minority in the world.

Nearly 700,000 have fled Rakhine in response to the army’s crackdown. The army crackdown has left at least 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh — the majority of whom are living in a tinderbox, fear-stricken “humanitarian emergency.”

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