The lockdown imposed to deal with the threat of coronavirus has driven Rohingya refugees in Hyderabad to the verge of starvation.
In about six different settlements of about 6,000 Rohingyas in the city, more than COVID-19, the hunger and misery is seen as a bigger threat to their survival. Though various social organisations and NGOs have been trying to rally resources to ensure a supply of rations in the camps, the lockdown has made their lives more difficult as it had deprived them of their meagre sources of income.
At a time when hundreds of thousands of local labourers and daily wage workers were made jobless by the closure of all economic activities, finding any work for the Rohingyas had become an impossible task.
Only organisations like Save the Children and some local groups offer hope amid the never-ending despair as children cry for food and the elderly are at the end of their wits.
“We were surviving with great difficulty as we cannot work formally. Our people were earning some money by working as rag pickers, construction workers or vegetable sellers. But that door is closed now,” said Mohammad Bilal, leader of the community at the Balapur camp. “But now our only hope are the people who are bringing food grains and other essential commodities.”
Save the Children has distributed 25kg of rice, cooking oil and other necessary items. Local people have also been trying to help out.
According to Dr Mazhar Hussain, director, Confederation of Voluntary Associations (Cova) in Hyderabad, who coordinates with the UN High Commission for Refugees, the threat of a coronavirus outbreak in these camps is ever present as social distancing is impossible for them.
“What social distance can be maintained in shack of 10x10 feet?” he asks pointing out the miserable living conditions in the camps that are without sanitation or running water.
The lone school in the refugee camp run by Save the Children is also closed because of the lockdown and the organisation has been trying to teach the children through classes on WhatsApp.
The Rohingyas took shelter in Hyderabad about seven years ago when the ethnic cleansing and massacres in Myanmar drove them out of their country and forced them to seek refuge in various parts of India.