On the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, more than 420 000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh in the last month. They’ve made it there after days of walking, without food or shelter.
Rohingya people – an ethnic minority group from the Western state of Rakhine, Myanmar- have been fleeing as their homes are burned and their people killed.
Now in Bangladesh, living in makeshift camps, they are struggling for the essentials: water, food and shelter.
Asia Calling correspondent, Shakil Ahmed has this report from the border town of Technaf, Bangladesh.
By the side of the road, a tiny bamboo structure is covered in a plastic sheet. This is a temporary home.
Another piece of plastic is laid out on hard earth. This has become a bed.
A 10 year boy lies asleep in the mud.
25 year old Jannatul is trying to put her baby to sleep. He’s shaking and weeping, he cannot rest.
“For the last two days, we’ve had no food. Their father has gone out to beg. But this morning he got nothing. The boy fell asleep crying,” Jannatul said through tears, “but this little one doesn’t understand.”
In the Bangladesh border town of Ukhia, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are living under simple plastic shelters, with little food.
As I pass children, I ask them what they need. They all give the same answer: Rice.
There are almost half a million with hungry bellies here.
Rohingya, an ethnic minority group from Rakhine state in Western Myanmar, have been flooding into Bangladesh for a month.
On the 25th of August, an armed group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, attacked a Myanmar police post, killing 12. Anger spread across Myanmar. And in retaliation, the Myanmar army cracked down on Rohingya, vowing to stamp out terrorism.
But hundreds of thousands of civilians have been targeted, with mass killings, and whole villages set on fire.
Rohingya have fled violence, but in Bangladesh they still struggle for survival.
Water, food and shelter are urgently needed.
NGOs have built a small hand water pump by a roadside camp. Many others use a small canal that flows from a hill. It’s surrounded by crowds of people, who use the same water for bathing, toileting, and drinking.
UNHCR spokesperson, Vivian Tan, says the situation is critical.
“The numbers are really quite immense. The camp population has more than doubled in the last two weeks so the resources are really straining. I mean the water supply is under strain,” she revealed. “ The shelter – you will not see any empty space in the camp, it is beyond full.”
Only 70 thousand can be accommodated at UNHCR supported camps in Kutupalong. The elderly and severely sick are prioritized.
The rest are living across 20 square kilometers of hills. International relief hasn’t reached the ground yet. Feeding everyone is impossible.
There are just a few NGOs are distributing relief; mostly rice, potatoes, biscuits and clothes. Most relief is coming from local voluntary groups.
Hundreds are coming from all over Bangladesh, distributing relief however they can, without proper coordination.
At the border a group of four boys are handing out water to Rohingya as they enter into Bangladesh. I ask them why they’ve come forward to help.
“Through media and social media we have come to know their situation, the boys tell me. “Being Muslim and human we wanted to support them however we can.”
This make-do help has saved thousands of lives, but it’s far from perfect.
Near a camp in the town of Balukhali, a local group throws biscuits from a truck, as a crowd scrambles for them.
But 70 year Sokina tells me she doesn’t stand a chance to receive relief like this. All seven of her family were killed in Mongdu, Rakhine state. After walking for 5 days she made it here, and found some relatives living under a plastic sheet. In desperation, she tells me she hasn’t eaten for days.
From the 19th of September, the Bangladesh government started distributing cooked food to some camps.
And the government has allocated 2000 acres of new land to build 18000 makeshift homes for Rohingya. Although that’s just a quarter of what’s needed.
After 5 days walking, 80 year old Shorifun has just made it to Bangladesh. Seeing the scene here, she slaps her head with hand, over and over. And asks why she wasn’t killed, along with her family.
She’s made it this far, but survival is still a struggle.