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Myanmar’s displaced Rohingya face rains threat: UN

This condition
Rohingya settlements. When the scorching heat, cold wet when it rains. Photo ACT

March 29, 2013
Tens of thousands of
Rohingya Muslims living in squalid, flood-prone camps in western Myanmar after
fleeing communal unrest face “imminent danger” from looming monsoon
rains, the UN warned on Friday.
An estimated 125,000
Rohingya and other Muslims have languished in insanitary camps since violence
flared last year with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, leaving scores dead and whole
neighbourhoods in ruins.
They “are now in
imminent danger of yet another tragedy when the monsoon rains hit…. We must
act immediately to prevent a predictable tragedy,” said John Ging of the
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
With the monsoon
expected to start in May, Ging called on the government to release new land for
camps and to help rebuild shattered community relations, highlighted by the
deadly outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in central Myanmar this month.
“The gravity and
urgency of the situation cannot be overstated. Community and religious leaders
also have a major role in promoting a culture of peace and mutual respect in
multicultural and multi-ethnic Myanmar,” he added.
Ging’s comments
follow allegations by rights groups that humanitarian aid to the Rohingya is
being restricted by Myanmar’s authorities.
Curbs on relief to
the camps are creating a “crisis that will become a disaster when the
rainy season arrives,” according to Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director
at Human Rights Watch.
Myanmar’s leaders
“seem intent on keeping the Rohingya segregated in camps rather than
planning for them to return to their homes”, he said, adding heavy rains
are likely to spread waterborne diseases among vulnerable camp residents.
Medical aid agency
Doctors Without Borders has said a lack of clean drinking water in the camps
has caused skin infections, worms, chronic coughing and diarrhoea while many
malnourished people are going without urgent medical care.
Thousands of Rohingya
have fled Myanmar in recent months on rickety boats, mostly believed to be
heading for Malaysia.
Myanmar views its
population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and
denies them citizenship.
The country’s
non-Rohingya Muslims have been targeted by violence led by Buddhist mobs in
central Myanmar since March 20.
At least 40 people
have been killed and mosques burned in several towns, prompting the government
to impose emergency rule and curfews in some areas.