The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has said it expects a further 200,000 new arrivals in Bangladesh from Myanmar in coming weeks- bringing the total Rohingya population to over one million-only exacerbating an already unimaginable humanitarian crisis.
A recent nutrition survey conducted by humanitarian agencies in Cox's Bazar, led by International Rescue Committee partner Action Contre la Faim (ACF), has revealed shocking levels of malnutrition amongst Rohingya children, only further deepening fears of an impending, and very serious, public health crisis awaiting the world's most vulnerable group of refugees, reports UNB.
The survey revealed a severe acute malnutrition rate of 7.5%, nearly four times the international emergency level and 10 times higher than last year, according to the New York-based IRC. With a global malnutrition rate of nearly 25%, this means that a quarter of Rohingya children between six months and five years of age-almost 40,000 are already malnourished and in urgent need of life-saving help.
The IRC is especially concerned for children under six months, who also face a tenfold increase in mortality based on the circumference of their arms. The IRC additionally expects malnutrition rates to be even higher as the humanitarian community comes to grips with the full scale of need, including thousands of new arrivals in dire conditions.
These findings only substantiate the IRC's latest, and alarming, needs assessment in Cox's Bazar, which raised the alarm regarding extreme food insecurity, with nearly three-quarters of the population lacking enough food, as well as unsanitary living conditions, with 95% of the population drinking contaminated water-especially as agencies report that two-thirds of Cox's Bazar's water is contaminated with feces.
"The conditions we are seeing in Cox's Bazaar create a perfect storm for a public health crisis on an unimaginable scale. Extremely vulnerable families with unmet health needs, high levels of food insecurity, limited access to health services and appalling conditions for hygiene, sanitation and access to clean drinking water-all of which contribute to these awfully high rates of malnutrition," said Cat Mahony, the IRC's emergency response director in Cox's Bazar.
"The situation will only deteriorate with more arrivals and a greater strain on already overstretched resources." With humanitarian agencies overstretched and underfunded - including primary health clinics with a caseload that has tripled in a month - the IRC has launched an emergency response on both sides of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border for displaced Rohingya. As an immediate measure in coming days, the IRC will be opening four specialized 24-hour care centers with partner ACF for the emergency treatment of severe acute malnutrition.
The IRC will additionally imminently launch six "one stop shops" with ACF for life-saving services, a multisector package of critical assistance- including nutrition, violence against women and girls, child protection and health delivered under one roof, services with the aim of reaching 80,000 in the first six months alone.
The response requires $12 million over the next 12 months to meet these immediate needs and ensure dignified humanitarian conditions.To continue to avert this crisis education, protection, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and cash assistance interventions on both sides of the border are essential but contingent on further funding.
"The success of this response, and the lives and futures of countless vulnerable men, women, and especially children, depends on the response from international donors," added Sanna Johnson, regional director for the IRC, "not to mention the commitment of both the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments to guarantee tenable and dignified solutions for of one of the world's most vulnerable groups of people."
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