With dwindling rations, Rohingya refugees on the verge of starvation
For the past two days, Mohammad Hussain, a Rohingya Muslim refugee, has been largely surviving on cucumbers and other raw vegetables that he can source from his neighbours. The 23-year-old who lives in a refugee camp in Nangli, Nuh, says that his family of three finished whatever little ration they had and is at the mercy of neighbours.
“The rations dried up two-three days ago. Since then, we have been surviving on cucumbers or tomatoes, which some refugees continue to have. Neither can we step out to buy anything nor do we have enough money to buy more vegetables,” Hussain, who lives with his wife and mother, says.
Before the lockdown, he used to work as a labourer at construction sites across Nuh. However, with the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and the national lockdown, he has been out of work for over a month now. “I haven’t been able to work for the past month. Earlier, there used to be some opportunity for work at construction sites or houses, but there has been a lull on that front for over a month. Due to the lack of money, we could not stock up or buy anything before the ban,” Hussain says, adding that he is scared of venturing out due to the heavy police presence on the streets.
Besides the lockdown, the Nuh district administration has sealed 36 villages as containment zones. Like Hussain, other refugees too are struggling to make ends meet and secure food for the day. The national lockdown has dealt a blow to Rohingya refugees living across all seven camps in Nuh district. While some refugee camps have run out of rations, residents in the other camps are surviving on the bare minimum and fear that supplies will only last for a day or two. Residents of these camps said that they had not received any food or ration from the administration since the lockdown started.
“Food is drying up now. We had received some ration from the UNHCR’s implementing partner 10 days ago but most families have exhausted their supply. There are 5-6 members in each family and even with judicious consumption, food hardly lasts beyond a few days now. We don’t know how we will survive through the next few days,” a camp coordinator says on condition of anonymity. He says that similar conditions were prevailing across all the camps in Nuh, with some camps surviving on supplies from do-gooders. “In certain locations such as Chandeni, some people from the neighbourhood step forward to help once in a while but circumstances in three camps in Nuh are particularly grim. Rations in all the camps are either over or on the cusp of drying up,” says the coordinator.
According to Pankaj (known by his first name), deputy commissioner, Nuh, the administration is committed to providing food to everyone. Following HT’s call, the administration has also reached out to the camp residents. “The supply will be sent to them. They want dry ration whereas we can only provide cooked food to them. The administration can help with food packets twice a day,” Pankaj says.