United Nations Bangladesh leader to plead for global help on Rohingya crisis at UN

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina headed for the UN General Assembly on Saturday to plead for global help coping with the Rohingya crisis as conditions worsen.

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Rohingya refugee women distribute food in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh play

Rohingya refugee women distribute food in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina headed for the UN General Assembly on Saturday to plead for global help coping with the Rohingya crisis as conditions worsen for about 400,000 refugees who have fled a crackdown in Myanmar.

The prime minister left a day after her government summoned the Myanmar ambassador for the third time to protest over its neighbour's actions. Her office said Hasina would demand more pressure on Myanmar during talks in New York.

Bangladesh has been overwhelmed by Rohingya Muslims since violence erupted in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar's Rakhine state on August 25.

Conditions are worsening by the day in the border town of Cox's Bazar where the influx has added to pressures on Rohingya camps already overwhelmed with 300,000 people from earlier refugee waves.

"Sheikh Hasina will raise the Rohingya issue during her speech at the UN General Assembly. She will seek immediate cessation of violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar and ask the UN secretary general to send a fact-finding missing to Rakhine," a spokesman for the prime minister, Nazrul Islam, told AFP.

"She will also call the international community and the UN to put pressure on Myanmar for the repatriation of all the Rohingya refugees to their homeland in Myanmar," he said.

Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali earlier told reporters that his country faces "an unprecedented crisis" due to the influx over the past three weeks.

Backlash fears amid Myanmar tensions

“We will continue international pressure on the Myanmar government to immediately end its ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya," he added.

Amid mounting tensions between the two, the foreign ministry on Friday summoned the Myanmar charge d'affaires in Dhaka to protest alleged violations of its airspace by Myanmar drones and helicopter.

The ministry warned that the three encroachments between September 10 and 14 could lead to "unwarranted consequences".

The Bangladesh government has also protested to the embassy over the planting of landmines near their border, which has killed several Rohingya, and the treatment of the refugees.

UN leader Antonio Guterres has also said Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya could amount to ethnic cleansing.

UN agencies and other relief groups have warned that the refugee crisis could get out of control.

The World Health Organisation and UN children's agency on Saturday launched vaccination campaigns against measles rubella and polio. They estimate that 60 percent of the new arrivals are children.

Amid monsoon rains, most of Rohingya, who spent more than a week trekking cross-country from Rakhine to reach the Bangladesh border, have found existing camps overflowing and have instead settled on muddy roadsides.

Many families do not have a shelter over their heads and refugees have been fighting for food and water deliveries.

"The needs are seemingly endless and the suffering is deepening," said UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado.

Nur Khan Liton, a respected Bangladeshi rights activist working with the refugees in Cox’s Bazar, told AFP: “Refugees are still pouring in. But there is no attempt to bring discipline and order in the aid management.

"There is a serious lack of coordination among the government and the agencies."

He said the Rohingya "have become victims of muggings and extortion."

"Diarrhoea has broken out. I heard that one Rohingya boy has died of diarrhoea. The authorities must move quickly before it becomes an epidemic."

The government has put the army in charge of ferrying foreign relief aid from airports to Cox's Bazar. It also plans to build 14,000 shelters, which it hopes will be enough for 400,000 people. Each shelter can house six refugee families.

Hasina has ordered the shelters erected within 10 days, Bangladesh's disaster management secretary Shah Kama told AFP.

The authorities have sent police reinforcements to Cox's Bazar to protect Buddhist temples in case of a radical Muslim backlash.

Islamist protesters demanded military action against Myanmar during a rally in Dhaka on Friday.

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