GENEVA - U.N. agencies say the number of Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh from Myanmar has jumped to 582,000. Nearly 60 percent of them are children. The U.N. children’s fund warns the children are living in life-threatening conditions and are susceptible to killer diseases.
U.N. Children’s Fund Spokeswoman Marixie Mercado has just returned from Bangladesh near the border with Myanmar, where she saw children living in shelters perched precariously on hillsides. She says the makeshift shelters are so flimsy they are likely to collapse during a strong wind or rainfall.
She says she saw children in Cox's Bazar drinking dirty water from muddy ponds, causing outbreaks of acute diarrhea. In just one week this month, she says there were 10,000 cases of the illness. She says children are suffering from skin diseases because of the unsanitary conditions.
Mercado tells VOA she spoke with a group of women who recounted horrific tales of what they had experienced in Myanmar. Among them were two teenage sisters.
“And they were terrified because they had lost family members, so they were alone. They were terrified about their future," said Mercado. "They were terrified about having a safe place to sleep, of being protected, of having enough to eat. They were terrified of being alone. They were just terrified of their future.”
Unfortunately, Mercado says their fears are justified. She says UNICEF has received just seven percent of the $76 million it needs to provide emergency support to children over the next six months.
Without the money, she warns the Rohingya children will lose out on every level. She says her agency will have to stop trucking safe water to 40,000 people. It will not be able to build enough latrines or provide therapeutic food to 15,000 children suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.
She warns that tens of thousands of children will not have access to healthcare, and about 100,000 newly-arrived refugee children will not be immunized against killer diseases, including measles, rubella and polio.