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Nearly 58% of Rohingya Refugees are Kids Suffering from Severe Malnutrition, Says UN Report

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Bangladesh, October 20, 2017 : Nearly fifty-eight per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) report also said that these children were highly exposed to infectious diseases, Efe news reported.

“In a sense it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” said Simon Ingram, Unicef official and author of the report.

Titled “Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future” was released at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

After two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, a southern Bangladesh town where nearly 600,000 newly arrived refugees are crammed into a crowd of 200,000 Rohingyas who had fled earlier, Ingram described the situation fraught with “despair, misery and indescribable suffering”.

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

The report also highlighted several drawings of children with uniformed soldiers killing people and helicopters spraying bullets from the sky.

In mid-August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out a coordinated attack on security posts in Myanmar, sparking a violent response from the military which led to thousands of Rohingyas in Rakhine state fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Ingram explained that very little is known about what is happening in Rakhine, since humanitarian agencies have not been able to enter the region since August.

Most of the refugees “are already undernourished, since the repression also included the burning of food stores and the destruction of crops”, he said.

According to the Unicef estimates, one in every five children under the age of five is suffering from acute malnutrition and about 14,500 suffer severe acute malnutrition.

Ingram explained that the main danger of infectious diseases have been mitigated with the vaccination campaign against cholera, measles and polio, but much remains to be done to tackle these risks.

He added the situation worsened with the lack of clean drinking water as these children consumed only contaminated water which is another main source of infection.

With regard to child protection, the expert welcomed the fact that the number of unaccompanied children had decreased to 800, with the identification tasks carried out by the various humanitarian agencies on the ground.

Regarding sexual abuse or forced or early marriages, Ingram explained that for now they have only punctual evidence, but that it is a real risk in any situation such as in Cox’s Bazar.

What does occur relatively frequently, he said, is child labour.

In the area of protection, the essential issue is the status of these people.

Not only do they have to be recognized as refugees, but also that newborns in the countryside or along the way, he said, should be able to obtain some kind of birth certificate.

Unicef and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are negotiating with the Bangladeshi authorities the possibility of issuing birth certificates for newborn Rohingyas, but the talks are still in process.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority that Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and are therefore stateless. (IANS)


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Study: Heart, Lungs of Healthy International Travelers Affected Quickly in Polluted Cities

"No matter where you are in the world, it is always best to be aware of the current air quality conditions and take appropriate actions to reduce your exposure"

Pollution, polluted cities
FILE - Most Vietnamese worry about air pollution, but it's cited most highly as a concern in Hanoi, which is closer to the polluting factories of southern China. VOA

When healthy international travelers visit a city with higher levels of particle pollution than at home, their heart and lung function quickly deteriorate, a small study suggests.

Travelers with existing respiratory or heart disease in particular may want to plan ahead to protect themselves in highly polluted places, the study authors write in the Journal of Travel Medicine.

“Travelers may be exposed to a completely different environment in a new city, within a matter of hours, lacking the necessary knowledge and adaptation to pollution in those cities,” senior study author Terry Gordon of the New York University School of Medicine told Reuters Health by email.

More than 1.2 billion people travel the world each year, and many who travel to “megacities” with more than 10 million residents may find themselves in areas with high levels of air pollution, he noted.

Rarely considered

“Most international travelers get their vaccinations for infectious diseases and learn about diseases and disasters in their intended destinations,” he added. “Very few, however, even consider air pollution, which can harm their health and may ruin their overall travel experience.”

Gordon and his colleagues recruited 34 healthy nonsmoking adults living in the New York City area who were planning international trips to large cities, and who agreed to measure their own cardiovascular and lung function before, during and after their trips.

pollution, polluted cities
FILE – Smoke and haze from wildfires obscures the Embarcadero, Nov. 15, 2018, in San Francisco. VOA

The researchers supplied each volunteer with devices for measuring blood pressure, heart rate and lung capacity and trained them to take these readings twice a day, starting a week before departure and continuing for a week after returning home.

The participants, who visited cities in Africa, East Asia, Europe and South Asia, were also instructed to track symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, nasal congestion, lightheadedness and runny nose.

Gordon’s team also gathered air pollution data from each traveler’s destination on average daily levels of so called PM 2.5, which is made up of ultrafine soot particles, dust and droplets that can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream. PM 2.5 exposure has been tied to respiratory problems as well as heart disease, heart rhythm disturbances and stroke.

Disparity in readings

Researchers found that PM 2.5 concentrations near the volunteers’ New York-area homes averaged just above 10 micrograms per cubic meter (m3) of air, while in the European destinations PM 2.5 readings ranged from the high teens in the mornings to the mid-20s in the evenings. In Africa and East
Asia, levels ranged from just below 60 micrograms/m3 to just over 80. And in South Asia, they hovered around 100, although some locations in East and South Asia saw spikes up to 500 micrograms/m3.

The travelers to East and South Asia experienced the most respiratory symptoms, particularly throat irritation, nasal congestion, cough and runny nose, as well as changes in heart rate variability.

pollution, polluted cities
FILE – The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 8, 2018. VOA

For all the volunteers, lung function in the evening seemed to be most affected by pollution concentrations in the morning.

For instance, every 10 microgram/m3 increase in the morning PM 2.5 concentration was linked with a 7-milliliter decrease in the evening lung function test measuring the maximum amount of air a person can forcefully exhale in one second.

Travel to a highly polluted city with PM 2.5 readings over 100 micrograms/m3 was associated with a greater than 200-milliliter reduction in lung function. Nonetheless, travelers with significant lung function decreases while abroad also showed an 80-milliliter increase in lung capacity when they returned home.

“It was surprising that even some people who were originally from those visited cities (now studying in the U.S.) showed symptoms when they went home for a short visit,” Gordon said. “Then they recovered when they returned to the U.S.”

ALSO READ: Iraq Suffers Pollution Crisis with Burning Trash and Factories Emitting Smoke

Further study

The research team plans to study larger groups, as well as susceptible travelers who have heart conditions or asthma, as well as children, elderly travelers and those who are required to travel for their jobs, such as federal employees and the military.

“While the study is focused on international travelers, it is also a unique opportunity to study more generally how changes in air pollution over short time scales impacts human health,” said Steve Hankey of Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs in Blacksburg.

“No matter where you are in the world, it is always best to be aware of the current air quality conditions and take appropriate actions to reduce your exposure,” he said by email. (VOA)