Rohingyan Muslims

Cyclone Mahasen a 'dress rehearsal' for Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:52am


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Myanmar's victims of sectarian strife were spared the full force of Cyclone Mahasen, but many are now returning to flimsy tents in flood-prone camps with the monsoon season weeks away.

Myanmar's Rakhine state is pockmarked with makeshift settlements for up to 140,000 people - mainly Rohingya Muslims - displaced by sectarian unrest last year that claimed about 200 lives and saw whole villages razed.

Many were evacuated last week ahead of Cyclone Mahasen, which later veered into neighbouring Bangladesh.

But most have now returned, according to Kirsten Mildren, of the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"They are actually no better off than where they were before the storm," she said, adding the cyclone was simply a "dress rehearsal" for the rainy season.

Many of the camps consist of little more than ramshackle shelters of bamboo and tarpaulin flung up in soggy paddy fields. Sanitation is a key concern. Rain last week left standing water in many of the camps and Mildren said water-borne diseases such as cholera were a big danger.

"Thousands are sheltering in areas that make them vulnerable and we need to find solutions," she said. "If one week of rain has done this, imagine what it's going to be like in a couple of months."