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Pollution threatens 1 million Rohingya refugees: Study

Recent study finds nearly 2 of every 3 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh camps treated for respiratory, skin disease

SM Najmus Sakib   | 04.05.2019
Pollution threatens 1 million Rohingya refugees: Study

DHAKA, Bangladesh  

Pollution has come to pose serious health risks for some one million Rohingya refugees at one of the world’s largest shelter camps in of Bangladesh, a new study indicated.

Smoke from firewood and exhaust from passing vehicles choke the air in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp, as unfiltered drinking water and the lack of proper sewage have made cases of diarrhea, fever and jaundice ever more frequent.

Refugees in the camp also commonly suffer from various skin, heart and respiratory illnesses, local newspaper The Daily Star reported on Friday, quoting the study.

The study by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development assessed the environmental conditions in the refugee settlements in June-December 2018, with support from the International Organization for Migration.

Istiakh Ahmed, coordinator of the study, underlined the need to act to minimize risks for the refugees, with the level of chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide -- which raises risks of respiratory problems -- over nearly double the standard.

More than 60% of respondents were being treated for medical conditions like wheezing, tightness of chest, rapid breathing, eczema, high fever, skin and eye irritation and shortness of breath, the study found.

Another 62% of tested groundwater samples were found to contain coliforms -- groups of harmful bacteria that dwell in human waste.

Roughly 30% of drains in the camps of made of mud while more than a third are open-air, and only 19% concrete. Waste is often not immediately removed, staying in the camp and polluting the air.   

Persecuted people

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency.

More than 34,000 Rohingya have been burned alive, and over 114,000 others beaten, said the report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls have been raped by Myanmar’s army and police with tens of thousands of homes belonging to the minority group demolished, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

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