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North Devon aid worker tells of ‘heart-breaking’ toll of Myanmar violence

PUBLISHED: 07:30 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:40 24 November 2017

Madara Hettiarachchi from Braunton pictured at a Bangladesh refugee camp. Picture: Ashish Peter Gomes

Madara Hettiarachchi from Braunton pictured at a Bangladesh refugee camp. Picture: Ashish Peter Gomes

Ashish Peter Gomes

A Braunton woman has been working in Bangladesh among the thousands of refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar

A North Devon aid worker has told of the heart-breaking situation for thousands of refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

Madara Hettiarachchi from Braunton has recently returned from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where she supported relief efforts for the ‘Rohingya crisis’ on behalf of the charity Christian Aid.

The violence in Myanmar escalated in August and the charity has been helping Rohingya Muslims and those displaced by the fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine State who have crossed the border into Bangladesh as refugees.

The charity sent a response team shortly after the crisis began and launched an appeal in September to help raise money for this work.

Madara, Christian Aid’s head of humanitarian programmes Asia and Middle East, led the response team while it was scaling up its emergency operations.

She said: “The camps are over-crowded and sanitation is a problem. Over 600,000 people have fled Myanmar and made their way, over treacherous ground, across the border into Bangladesh since the end of August.

“They are exhausted and desperate for food, shelter and clean water. Many of them have witnessed terrible violence or lost loved ones. Their stories of fleeing Myanmar and crossing over to Bangladesh are heart-breaking.”

Christian Aid is providing food, emergency shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene services.

With local partners, it has set up a medical team of doctors, paramedics and nurses that treat between 200 and 300 people per day, in a makeshift tent in the refugee camps.

Madara continued: “People I talked to are concerned about their next meal and worried about the health of pregnant relatives, small children and their elderly parents and grandparents. Christian Aid’s team and local partners are working hard to meet basic and urgent needs of these displaced individuals.

“There are large numbers of women and children affected and there is an urgency to scale up humanitarian responses before their living conditions deteriorate even further.”

The Myanmar violence has led to reports of terrible atrocities including wholesale slaughter, rape and torture.

The UN and the US have called it a campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’, while human rights experts allege it is nothing short of genocide.

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