Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh | AFP | Rashida Begum steers clear of the water pump near the reeking latrine shared by more than 100 families in a grim corner of Bangladesh that has grown into one of the world’s largest refugee settlements in just weeks.
“The pump works, but the water stinks, so we don’t drink it,” the Rohingya woman said in the squalid camp where her family of 11 has lived since fleeing Myanmar a fortnight ago.
The UN has warned of a humanitarian “nightmare” unfolding in Bangladesh’s refugee camps, where half a million people have taken shelter after fleeing violence in Myanmar in unprecedented waves.
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) September 29, 2017
With a lack of clean water and toilets, aid workers say a major health disaster is imminent.
Heavy monsoon rain is compounding the risk of disease outbreak, with field doctors reporting a huge spike in cases of severe diarrhoea, especially among children.
The near daily torrential downpours send streams rushing through areas where tens of thousands openly defecate every day. For some, this murky runoff is their only source of drinking water.
A stench of excreta hangs in the air on the outskirts of Kutupalong, a camp that already housed tens of thousands of refugees before the latest influx saw it mushroom into a fetid tent city stretching for miles.
At a field clinic, a long queue of refugees waiting to see the only doctor available stretched beyond the tent into the pouring rain.
Dr Alamul Haque sees upwards of 400 patients a day and looked exhausted as he described the spiralling number of children presenting with water-borne illnesses.
“Earlier parents were bringing one or two children with them. Now it’s three to four,” Dr Haque, from Bangladeshi charity SDI, told AFP.
“It’s been raining, so human waste is running everywhere. There is a high chance of a diarrhoea epidemic here.”