“There are hardly any latrines so people have tried to rig up their
own plastic sheeting around four bamboo poles, but there is nowhere
for their waste to go except into the stream below. That is the same
stream that, just 10 meters away, others are using to collect
drinking water,” Dr. Kate White, the medical emergency manager in
Kutupolong, the largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, wrote in
an October 16 letter to the editor of The Lancet medical journal.
“Some people are using clothes that they have strung together to
provide shelter from the elements,” she said. “But after two days of
torrential rain and tropical thunderstorms, some communities'
shelter and their few belongings have completely washed away.”
“I can only imagine how incredibly terrible it must have been in
their home village, if this is what they chose,” White added. “If
this is the better option, the other must have been a living hell.”
The Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh was already crowded, White noted,
since refugees from Myanmar have been arriving there for decades.
Just 250,000 of the 1.2 million people living in the region are
native Bangladeshis, with the rest being “forcibly displaced Myanmar
nationals,” she adds.
The Rohingya, who are Muslim, have long been a persecuted minority
in Myanmar, a Buddhist country. Myanmar has denied citizenship to
the Rohingya since 1982. The country’s government and military have
been accused of human rights abuses, including genocide. Hundreds of
thousands of Rohingya have fled the country since the 1970s.
Since August 25, MSF has treated more than 30,000 people in Cox’s
Bazar, “effectively five times the number of people who sought
treatment at MSF facilities during the same period last year,” White
told Reuters Health in an email. “The main theme among these
patients is respiratory tract infections and diarrheal diseases,
which are directly related to the poor hygiene conditions in the
[to top of second column]
She added: “While we haven’t seen an outbreak of waterborne disease,
the risk is huge. The longer we delay the building of latrines and
increased efforts toward sanitation, the greater the risk.”
For “relatively decent sanitation” in the settlements, White wrote
in the Lancet, it will be necessary to build 8,000 latrines and
supply 2 million liters of water daily.
To date, she said in her email, “MSF has built 200 latrines, 25
boreholes and a gravity water supply system while trucking an
average of 100 cubic meters (about 26,000 gallons) of water daily to
the settlements from the MSF inpatient health facility borehole.
Although we still have a long way to go, the work on the ground has
White said there are no signs that the flow of refugees will abate
any time soon. “There’s been a steady stream of new arrivals. On 9
October alone, an estimated 11,000 new arrivals crossed into
Bangladesh. And we’re seeing a steady flow of arrivals coming
through every week via two entry points.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2ygaEfY The Lancet, October 16, 2017.
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