By Sorwar Alam and Meryem Goktas
Since the beginning of the current crisis last Aug. 25, Turkey has provided more than $10 million in humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees in southeastern Bangladesh, the head of a Turkish state-run disaster relief agency said Thursday.
"Turkey, along with all official institutions, distributed more than $10 million" to the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, Mehmet Gulluoglu, the head of Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), told Anadolu Agency.
"We told Bangladesh authorities that we are ready to do more, to cooperate to help needy people along with local Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees," he said.
'First baby born in Turkey's field hospital'
Gulluoglu said that since the beginning of the crisis, Turkey had provided active humanitarian aid such as shelters, food, clothing, and health care.
"We set up a field hospital there. The first Rohingya child was born at the hospital on Feb. 19," he added.
The hospital was built and is operated by Turkey's Health Ministry and AFAD to provide emergency health support for refugees.
Gulluoglu said the camps in Bangladesh were some of the most crowded in the world, and that healthcare services were amongst the refugees' most urgent needs.
"Since the hospital started to operate in early January, more than 2,000 people have been examined," he said.
Gulluoglu added that work on a second field hospital and health clinics in the camps continued.
He said that negotiations with Bangladesh authorities on the issue of the Rohingya Muslims had been continuing both in Turkey and in Bangladesh.
"But this is not an easy issue. This is an issue that has been going on in Myanmar’s Western Rakhine state for many decades. Hundreds of thousands of people, including children and women, are suffering there," he said.
"Weather conditions in Bangladesh are good now. But monsoon rains are expected to start in April. The infrastructure at the refugee camps isn’t ready for the natural disasters which may affect the entire area.
"We told Bangladesh authorities that we're ready with all necessary equipment to give support during the rainy season," he added.
Gulluoglu praised the Rohingya repatriation agreement signed last November between Bangladesh and Myanmar but voiced concerns about the security of Rohingya after their return to Myanmar.
"This agreement is a positive step, but it is not finished. Its consequences and the environment of whether the returning people live in peace must both be monitored," he said.
"First of all, these [Rohingya] people need to be brought back [to Myanmar], but while this process is happening, humanitarian support needs to be continued as long as they stay there [in Bangladesh]."
The repatriation deal for the Rohingya has been criticized by the international community as well as rights groups due to a lack of mechanisms for observing the vulnerable people after their return to Myanmar.
Under the deal, on Feb. 16 Bangladesh gave Myanmar an initial list of 8,000 Rohingya Muslims for repatriation.
"I think that people have to pay more attention to the humanitarian crises in their individual lives, and decision-makers in the areas where they decide," said Gulluoglu.
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.
More than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar since August 25, 2017, when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report last December, the global humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.