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Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Face Serious Water Shortage

Because of the growing shortage, the UNHCR began rationing the refugees' daily water supply

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FILE - Rohingya refugees collect drinking water at the Shalbagan refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh, March 5, 2019. VOA

The U.N. refugee agency says water rations for tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have been cut because of a serious shortage. The U.N. refugee agency reports that temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and sporadic rainfall have reduced the region’s water supply to a critically low level.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic says aid agencies will begin trucking in water in the next two weeks for the more than 140,000 Rohingya refugees living southeast Bangladesh’s Teknaf Peninsula. He estimates the operation will cost about $60,000 a month. Because of the growing shortage, the UNHCR began rationing the refugees’ daily water supply.

“We are talking here about 20 liters a day,” Mahecic said. “This is a minimum standard in an emergency and we, because of the shortage of water, had to go even lower now to 15 liters a day per person. This is supposed to meet all of peoples’ needs for water during the day. So, from hygiene, preparing food, sanitation, everything.”

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FILE – Rohingya refugee women fill their canisters with water at the Leda refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Dec. 16, 2017. VOA

Mahecic notes the situation is different in the northern part of Bangladesh’s Teknaf Peninsula, where the 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in the Kutupalong settlement in Cox’s Bazar have water available through boreholes.

The dry spell in the southern part of the peninsula is expected to last a few more weeks, andwill likely be broken when the monsoon season begins in June.

ALSO READ: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Get Identity Cards for the First Time

In preparation, Mahecic says the UNHCR is building better facilities to capture and preserve rain water. He said hundreds of refugees are participating in a project to create a reservoir to capture monsoon rain in Teknaf and preserve it throughout the year.

The project, which is run by the World Food Program with humanitarian agency ADRA and supported by UNHCR, should temporarily improve the situation. (VOA)

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Report: Conditions in Myanmar Not Safe for Return of Rohingya Refugees

Myanmar has presented Bangladesh with a list of more than 1,200 verified displaced persons who repeatedly expressed their desire to return, he said

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FILE - Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait in queues to receive aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2017. VOA

Conditions in Myanmar are far too dangerous for the safe, dignified return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to escape violence and persecution in their home country, according to a report by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

More than 730,000 Rohingya refugees are living in squalid, overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.  While conditions in Bangladesh remain dire, U.N. officials say the situation in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state is worse and far more threatening.

U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented the report to the U.N. council. She says Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state face serious discrimination, and continuous, systematic violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

“We continue to receive and can verify reports from a variety of sources, including reports on sexual and gender-based violence, that human rights violations continue, allegedly committed by members of the security forces,” Gilmore said. “The conditions conducive for refugee return simply do not exist.”

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Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wade past a waterlogged path leading to the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. VOA

Security forces attacked and burned Rohingya homes and shops in several townships in May, Gilmore reported. She said her office has received reports of disappearances, and of people being subjected to torture and other forms of abuse in detention.

In addition, she said, Rohingya Muslims are denied basic services to health, education and jobs, and many have been stripped of their property and identity papers, essentially rendering them stateless.

Gilmore called on the Myanmar government to reverse this situation and to end the statelessness of the Rohingya. She said it is unlikely the refugees will return to their place of origin until their citizenship status is recognized.

Reaction in Myanmar

Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, says human rights awareness is promoted throughout his country. He called the U.N. report misleading, incomplete and full of unverified allegations that distort the truth.

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia Commons

The repatriation process must begin as soon as possible to resolve the humanitarian situation, he said, adding that Myanmar has been ready to receive people since January 2018, when his country and Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement.

ALSO READ: Cutoff of Internet Service at Rakhine, Chin States Creates Difficulty for Civilians who Cannot Access Donors Online to Make Aid Requests

Myanmar has presented Bangladesh with a list of more than 1,200 verified displaced persons who repeatedly expressed their desire to return, he said.

Earlier this year, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the U.N. Security Council “not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of conducive environment there.” (VOA)