More than 8,400 Rohingya Muslims are suffering from disabilities in Bangladesh refugee camps, said relief organization officials who expressed support Wednesday for a Human Rights Watch (HRW) video earlier this week calling for improved infrastructure.
The New York-based rights watchdog said proper lighting and walkways, along with accessible toilets, have not been built at the camps that have been settled by more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar since August 2017.
“With such widespread misery and obvious needs for the Rohingya refugees generally, there is a risk that refugees with disabilities will be overlooked,” Bill Frelick, HRW refugee rights director, said in a news release accompanying the video. “But this is precisely the time when the needs of people with disabilities ought to be a priority.”
The HRW video includes a statement from Hussein Ahmad, whose 17-year-old son is paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot while fleeing Myanmar.
“I thank the doctor who gave my son a wheelchair, but I can’t use it because the roads are very dangerous and keep getting worse. It is time for my son to study, but he can’t walk and his life is being destroyed in front of me,” he said in the video.
Monsoon rains flooded parts of the crowded Rohingya camps in April and regular downpours since then have turned roads into quagmires, crippling relief efforts.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identified 8,438 disabled Rohingya in the camps in and around Cox’s Bazar as of Sept. 15 – a number much lower than the estimate from Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner.
Md. Abul Kalam Azad said there could be as many as 15,000 disabled Rohingya in Kutupalong-Balukhali, the world’s largest refugee camp, and other smaller camps.
“We are trying to improve their livelihood through different national and international NGO support efforts,” he told BenarNews. “We also have taken measures to support disabled people in all camps.”
Support includes necessary equipment, such as walkers or crutches, training and therapy, he said.
Meanwhile, UNHCR promises to take extra steps, if necessary to help those with disabilities.
“We try to give some extra care for vulnerable people,” UNHCR spokesman Joseph Surja Tripura told BenarNews. “If any disabled person can’t come to the camp to collect aid, our volunteers will carry it to their home.”