Rohingya refugees continue to flood into Cox’s Bazar

An estimated 2,000 Rohingya refugees a day are still arriving in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, having fled violence in Myanmar’s North Rakhine State, according to IOM staff monitoring the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

The new arrivals bring the total number of refugees to cross into Bangladesh since 25 August to an estimated 515,000. Observers believe that as many as 100,000 more people may be waiting to cross into Cox’s Bazar from North Rakhine’s Buthidaung Township.

Many of the refugees arrive in Teknaf – Cox’s Bazar’s southernmost upazila or sub-district – but then move north to Ukhiya sub-district and the vast, teeming makeshift settlements of Kutupalong, Balukhali and neighbouring satellite sites.

They arrive exhausted, hungry and usually with nothing more than the clothes on their back, having walked for days and then braved a dangerous river or sea crossing. Many show signs of malnutrition.

Yesterday, Nunavet, 70, walked aimlessly through Kutupalong, tired and in desperation. The frail, skeletal old lady was hungry. Her face, etched with deep wrinkles, spoke not just of fatigue, but of a life of hardship endured over the years. Overcoming the language barrier, she mumbled through her ailments, pointing to her empty stomach, aching back and sore feet.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, this week appealed to the international community for USD 120 million through March to provide desperately needed aid to Nunavet and other Rohingya refugees who have flooded into Cox’s Bazar over the past six weeks. It aims to target 450,000 individuals (90,000 households) over the next six months.

The IOM appeal is part of a broader humanitarian response plan seeking USD 434 million to help 1.2 million people, including the Bangladeshi host community.

At the request of the Government of Bangladesh, IOM is hosting the Inter Sector Coordination Group, which is coordinating the work of aid agencies responding to the humanitarian crisis triggered by the influx. It is also leading the coordination of three sectors – shelter and core relief items, displacement site management and communication with displaced and host communities.

IOM’s operations focus on six sectors: shelter and core relief items; site management; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); health; coordination; protection; and communication with communities.

Life-saving services delivered IOM and its partners include clean water and sanitation, shelter, food, security, health care, education, and psychological support for the most vulnerable individuals, many whom are suffering from acute mental trauma or are survivors of sexual violence.

In the settlements, people standing in line for aid snake around the various distribution points set up by aid organizations and local NGOs. As they wait for hours for rice, biscuits, plastic sheets, jerry cans and hygiene materials, the number of children stand out. An estimated 58 per cent of the refugees are under the age of 18.

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