Aid workers fear cholera outbreak in Rakhine relief camps

Thousands displaced by fighting between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw in Rakhine state face a possible cholera outbreak because of unsanitary conditions in relief camps, aid workers have warned.

An estimated 22,000 have now fled from clashes since late last year, with roughly 16,000 housed in camps with a lack of access to food, water and medicine, relief groups have said.

“The water at the camps is unsanitary, we think there could be an outbreak of cholera,” Aung Kyaw, a relief worker with the Poe Shi Pyin Allied Relief Association, told Myanmar Now.

The camps also require preventative healthcare services, he added: “We haven’t seen any medical teams [there].”

At least 22 soldiers and 24 civilians have been killed in the clashes so far, according to local groups.

Zaw Zaw Tun, secretary of the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, said about 30 camps are facing a lack of drinking water, while up to 8,000 people are in need of food supplies.

He also called for some of the camps to be relocated after fighting in recent weeks came within miles of where the refugees were sheltering.

“Battles were fought a mile away from War Taung, Kan Sauk and Taung Mingalar camps,” he told Myanmar Now.

“Even the locals from the villages that accommodated the refugees left their villages. The refugees do not feel safe anymore,” he added.  

Ko Maung Htwe, who is sheltering at the War Taung camp with more than 1,200 others, said that earlier this month there was a battle five miles from the camp that lasted for several days.

Supervisors at several camps told Myanmar Now that as well as rice they are in need of materials to build more shelters, bedding, and medicine.

Zaw Zaw Tun estimated that as of late last week 5,000 people in 25 villages were trapped inside conflict zones.

“Some are unable to flee because they are trapped. Some stayed behind to take care of their houses. Some are not trapped but they are unable to flee because of injuries,” he said.

Last week delegates from the AA travelled to Naypyitaw to join peace talks with the Tatmadaw, but negotiators were unable to reach any agreements.

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