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Rohingya Refugees, Host Communities Face Dire Conditions

A Rohingya refugee man collects water from a tube-well near to a toilet in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2017.

GENEVA — More than 100 days have passed since an upsurge in violence in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state forced nearly 626,000 Rohingya to flee for safety to Bangladesh.

The International Organization for Migration reports this refugee population is crammed into congested, unhygienic settlements, which are susceptible to outbreaks of diseases.

While conditions for the Rohingya are dreadful, IOM spokesman Joel Millman says this huge refugee influx into Cox's Bazar is having a severe impact on the impoverished host communities in the region.

"The water, sanitation and hygiene situation is not only of concern in the refugee settlements, where over 60 percent of water is contaminated with E coli, but also in the local communities living nearby," he said.

Millman says local people in Cox's Bazar are struggling to survive. As a result, the United Nations plans to include some 300,000 Bangladeshis as part of its humanitarian assistance program for Rohingya refugees.

Bangladeshi laborers build a tube-well in a Rohingya refugee camp, in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct. 29 2017.

IOM, which is part of the U.N. plan, has constructed more than 3,800 latrines and 159 wells in six host community locations, according to Millman.

"More than 30,000 host community members now have access to safe water and sanitation services," he said. "To ensure sustainability and to generate employment, IOM has trained and equipped local tube-well caretakers, as well."

In addition, IOM health teams in Cox's Bazar are providing emergency and primary health care services to both the Rohingya and local Bangladeshi communities.

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