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The many challenges facing the Rohingya

Forced from their homes in Myanmar, the 655,000 now living as refugees are grappling with disease and despair
Gulf News

The past four months have been a nightmare for the Rohingya. After five years of random outbreaks of community violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, against the Muslim minority people, that simmering ethnic and religious hatred erupted into full-blown violence against innocent men, women and children in late August. Aided and abetted by the security and military forces of Myanmar, marauding gangs of murderous thugs killed more than 6,700 Rohingya, setting homes and villages ablaze, torching Rohingya business and desecrating and destroying mosques, all with the malicious intent of driving away this ethnic and religious group from Myanmar.

The United Nations has deemed the organised and brutal campaign against the Rohingya to be a textbook case of ethnic cleansing, an operation that was approved by the self-serving silence of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The military forces set minefields along the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, a deliberate and wanton act to maim and injure as many fleeing families as possible as they sought safety and refuge across the frontier in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The orgy of violence that Suu Kyi has silently overseen has now resulted in more than 655,000 Rohingya living in refugee camps, mostly around Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. As always when humanitarian needs arise from natural disasters or during times of conflict, the UAE is there to help, providing aid and supplies to alleviate the immediate needs of the desolate and desperate.

But life in these camps at Cox’s Bazaar is difficult and half of those 655,000 living there are under the age of 18. Conditions are cramped and overcrowded, sanitary conditions are poor, and clean and ample supplies of fresh water are stretched to breaking point. In these conditions, germs can proliferate, triggering a range of deadly diseases that can target the weak and frail.

Now comes word that diphtheria, a deadly and highly infectious disease, has hit the camps. Close to 30 have succumbed to the disease and more than 2,000 cases have been reported by medical staff members who are trying to contain the outbreak. It is a condition that is rare in developed societies, but one that thrives in the conditions at the camp, attacking the nose and throat, then the lungs and finally the heart. While caring nations are sending medical professionals to treat the disease, it is yet another of the many challenges that have been thrown at the Rohingya this year. Every death now is another scar on the lacking conscience of Suu Kyi.

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