More than 300,000 women and children who have fled from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh are in urgent need of food, safe shelter, health services, sanitary facilities and protection, international aid organisation CARE has warned.
“Our team spoke to dozens of women and almost all appeared traumatised by their experiences from the past few weeks. Many trekked barefoot for days through fields, jungles and rivers to get here. I spoke to many women who made this journey while pregnant or carrying small children,” CARE Bangladesh’s Country Director, Zia Choudhury, said.
“Women and children need urgent support to help them recover from the horrific journey, as well as to live with dignity in these terribly overcrowded and chaotic places where they seek safety.”
A recent CARE assessment in Balukhali Camp in Cox’s Bazar found women lacked privacy, safe places to sleep, sufficient sanitation facilities and mental health support. In addition, there were scant resources available for families to feed their children, many of whom are suffering from traumatic experiences, diarrhoea, skin disease and fever.
“In 20 years of working with refugees across the world, these are some of the worst conditions I have seen. I fear conditions are perfect for an epidemic, and then we will have a second disaster,” Mr Choudhury said.
“Tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar had to leave everything behind. Women and children living in camps and other temporary shelter, with inadequate healthcare and food, are particularly at risk.”
CARE’s assessment showed about 6,000 people were sharing just three toilets.
“Women often wait until after dark to relieve themselves, going out in groups for safety. Pregnant and menstruating women are in a particularly desperate situation and are compromising their health due to the lack of bathrooms and showers,” Mr Choudhury said.
In the past month, more than 480,000 people have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh after an escalation of violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. Around 80 per cent of them are women and children.
CARE has launched an appeal for $10 million to provide emergency relief and has scaled up its response to provide food, treat acute malnutrition and support mobile clinics for women and children.
CARE has worked in Bangladesh since 1949, and has extensive experience responding to humanitarian disasters. CARE Australia is an international humanitarian aid organisation fighting poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities. www.care.org.au/bangladesh
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