Children, teenagers among wounded Rohingya in crammed Bangladesh hospital
CHITTAGONG, BANGLADESH: Mohammed Idrees, a 10-year-old Rohingya boy, does not remember how he landed at the hospital in Bangladesh with a part of his right ear blown off.
But he says he won’t return to his home country, neighboring Myanmar, until there is peace.
Idrees is one of around 60 badly injured Rohingya Muslims admitted to the hospital in Chittagong since violence flared in Rakhine state in the northwest of Myanmar in late August.
Rohingya are fleeing a military crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people and sent 146,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.
Apart from creating a humanitarian crisis, the unrest has also brought waves of international criticism of Myanmar’s leader, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution. The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country.
Almost all the Rohingya being treated at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital, the largest in southeast Bangladesh, have been injured by gunshots or bomb blasts, according to a hospital document. Around a third of the total injured are teenagers or younger, including a six-year-old boy.
The Myanmar military has repeatedly said that it has been targeting only insurgents in the crackdown.
Ajoy Kumar Dey, who is in charge of the hospital, said he had not seen similar wounds during previous influxes of Rohingya from Myanmar. He said the large number of young men and children, like Idrees, underlined the gravity of the situation in Rakhine.
“I don’t remember what happened to me, but I want to go see my mother,” Idrees said, lying on his bed in a soiled white shirt and a checked longyi, a Myanmar-style sarong. His head was bandaged and he was clutching the hand of his father, sitting by his side. “It hurts a lot.”
He cried as his father, Mohammed Rasheed, described how Myanmar security forces sprayed bullets into their village, Kyauk Chaung, on the morning of Aug. 25.
One bullet took off a chunk of Idrees’ ear as his family crouched behind a canal near their house. Six fellow villagers from Kyauk Chaung died in the hour-long shooting, said Rasheed.
A bleeding Idrees was carried on a bamboo stretcher over some hills near the border to reach Bangladesh the same night. His mother, three sisters and a brother arrived on Sunday.
“We are lucky all of us are alive,” said Rasheed.
Across the ward, a Rohingya man with bullet wounds in one shoulder, the back of a thigh and a shin, writhed in agony. A plastic nasal pipe was helping him breath.
The government hospital in Chittagong is usually crowded at the best of times; now it is receiving twice as many people as it has beds – many of them Rohingya with shattered faces, shredded legs and damaged eyes who are fighting for their lives.
Around two dozen young Rohingya men, some groaning in pain, were laying on blue hospital mattresses on the floor of a corridor on Wednesday, their legs or hands heavily plastered.
Zaw Htay, Aung San Suu Kyi’s spokesman, said Thursday that Myanmar was in discussions with Dhaka on what to do about what he said were “terrorists” in the hospital, a charge the Myanmar military made earlier in the week.
The Bangladeshi foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, denied being contacted by Myanmar about militants being treated at the hospital.
However, he said that Bangladesh had previously handed over two “terrorists” after being given their names by Myanmar. He did not provide further details, but said Bangladesh would hand any terrorists to Myanmar if it provided more names and the individuals could be found.
A United Nations source said that on Sept. 3 alone, 31 Rohingya with bullet injuries and six with burn injuries were admitted to the Chittagong hospital.
“There have been many people who have come with bullet wounds on the backs of their bodies,” said H.T. Imam, a political adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh. “That is most reprehensible. This is a killing mission, plain and simple.”
Myanmar officials have said the country has the right to defend itself from attack, adding that security personnel were told to keep innocent civilians from harm.
Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh are in urgent need of medical and humanitarian assistance given the massive scale of the influx, Doctors Without Borders said Wednesday.
“Many of the arrivals have serious medical needs, such as violence-related injuries, severely infected wounds, and advanced obstetric complications,” Pavlo Kolovos, the humanitarian group’s head in Bangladesh, said in a statement. “Without a scale-up of humanitarian support, the potential health risks are extremely concerning.”
One such person with severe injuries is Mohammed Jubair, 21, who, according to doctors treating him in the burns and plastic surgery department, is on his deathbed.
The right side of Jubair’s face has been smashed up completely; the left has severe burns, as does his lower body.
He was fleeing his village in Rakhine with his five-year-old sister when Myanmar forces in a helicopter hurled a bomb at them on Aug. 26, killing the girl on the spot, according to his older brother, Nur Mohammed.
“Unlike me, my brother was carrying our young sister as we fled to the hills when the army came and started setting our houses on fire,” he said. “I could move ahead faster, now Allah save my brother.”
Like the attack on the village reported by Rasheed, it was not possible to independently verify Mohammed’s account.