Safe in a camp, Rohingya children face death by malnutrition
BALUKHALI: Tiny Mohammad Sohail cries uncontrollably as he waits to see a doctor — one of the thousands of Rohingya children at risk of an agonising death from malnutrition even after reaching the safety of refugee camps in Bangladesh.
His father was killed in the crackdown on Muslims in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar's Rakhine state, forcing his mother Hasana Begum to flee with Mohammad and his brother -- joining some 610,000 other Rohingya who have fled since August.
The family barely ate on their seven-day trek across hills and through jungles to the Bangladesh border where they arrived two weeks ago, and it has taken its toll. Aged just 21 months, Mohammad's ribs nearly poke through his skin. His hands are just skin and bone.
"We walked for days through continuous rain, cold and heat. Both my sons suffered from fever and diarrhoea and have since lost appetite," Begum told AFP.
There are at least 50 other malnourished children like him at the Balukhali camp medical unit.
"The condition of many of these children is very critical. Most of their parents don't even understand the extent of the problem," said paramedic Shumi Akhter.
Medical teams are distributing special high-nutrition baby food packs so Rohingya infants can build some muscle. But it is a desperate battle for all.
The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, estimates that 25,000 children in the overcrowded Rohingya camps are suffering from severe malnutrition that could easily become a major killer.
More than half of the huge influx into the refugee camps are children. Some have died there.