OTTAWA – Oxfam Canada says hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who have been fleeing violence in Myanmar in recent weeks, are without shelter and clean water in flooded refugee camps.
The international development agency says nearly 480,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and more than 70 per cent are without adequate shelter, while half have no safe drinking water.
It said in a release Wednesday that heavy rains and floods in camps have left people facing extreme hardship, and have slowed down the building of emergency shelters and clean water tanks, and the delivery of aid.
Oxfam says is has reached nearly 100,000 people with clean drinking water, emergency toilets, water pumps and food rations and is planning to help more than 200,000 people during the first phase of its response.
Oxfam Bangladesh’s humanitarian co-ordinator Paolo Lubrano says most of the families are huddled under sarongs and urgently need help.
Due to the volatile and chaotic situation, Oxfam says it is concerned about abuse and exploitation of women and girls.
“Women and children are particularly vulnerable, sleeping under open skies, roadsides, and forest areas with little or no protection,” Lubrano said.
The head of the U.N.’s migration agency said Wednesday there are increasing reports of sexual violence directed at Rohingya Muslims.
Director-general William Lacy Swing of the International Organization for Migration said he was “shocked and concerned” about the reports of sexual and gender-based violence among Rohingya in Bangladesh.
IOM said rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence have been identified. It did not specify who was responsible for the violence.
An agency statement on Wednesday said IOM doctors have treated dozens of women who experienced “violent sexual assault” since August, but that the known cases likely represent only a “small portion” of actual cases.
The military in Myanmar is accused of burning down the homes of Rohingya Muslims, forcing members of the persecuted minority to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
-with files from The Associated Press