Stateless and starving

The world community, although aware of the Rohingya genocide, has barely acted

Editorial April 12, 2018

Bangladesh appears unfazed about the malnourishment emergency faced by Rohingya children. According to a brief study completed at the Kutupalong camp in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the prevalence of chronic malnourishment among children of the Rohingya refugees is 43 per cent, which is nearly 20 percentage points above the global emergency threshold. Similarly, anaemia — quite possibly as a result of both chronic and acute malnourishment — exists among 48 per cent of the child population with the emergency threshold being 40 per cent. As if their stateless circumstances were not intimidating enough with parents anxious about their children’s future, they must fret that despite having fled ethnic cleansing, their generations still face lethal threats. The world community, although aware of the Rohingya genocide, has barely acted in attempts to end their suffering.

Particularly alarming is the silence of Muslim countries, including our own. We decry the follies of the Israeli army in its atrocities against Gazans, but there are only meek voices raised for the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine who have been similarly murdered in cold blood by Myanmar military forces. Furthermore, there is no support for Bangladesh’s efforts in opening its border to refugees. Here, the Rohingyas who now call Pakistan home remain neglected and limited in their ability to earn livelihoods with attention paid to their plight only recently, albeit briefly. Rohingyas in Bangladesh live under similar or worse conditions perhaps and while Pakistan knows the refugee struggle well, we also recognise that if a country allows refugees in, it has a responsibility to provide basic needs.

A contingency plan by Bangladesh needs to be implemented as an extension of its magnanimity when it opened its heart and borders to refugees. Even though Pakistan is unable to manage its own refugee and malnutrition epidemic at home, we can also do better, in the way of lending support.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2018.

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