Malnutrition reaches emergency levels at Rohingya refugee camp

Medical staff working in the world's biggest refugee camp in Bangladesh say they are still seeing high numbers of malnourished women and children.

It's been one year since the Rohingya refugee crisis began, and as the camp's population continues to grow, so do rates of disease.

Since January, there have been more than 330,000 cases of acute respiratory infections. Rates of fever are also incredibly high, with 310,920 cases since January. Acute diarrhea is another serious threat, with more than 150,000 cases recorded.

At an emergency nutrition centre which helps 7000 people every month, the most vulnerable are pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, according to nutrition manager and nurse Astrid Klomp.

"That these women are malnourished and not being able to give nutrients they would give from their own bodies to these babies, that is very serious."

Malnutrition rates for both women and children are close to emergency levels, mainly because most who arrived in Bangladesh left with nothing but their clothing. Even before fleeing from Myanmar, the Rohingya lived in poverty with no rights or recognition as citizens of Myanmar.

Many spent weeks on the run from the Myanmar military hiding in bush with no food and little water. They’re now living in terribly congested conditions without their farmland or access to their cattle or gardens.

The overcrowded nature of the camps has lead to huge spikes in illnesses, including diarreha, fever and respiratory illnesses. It's common for a family of six to be living inside a hut measuring just 4m by 4m

The other issue is that latrines are, in most cases, just metres away from water pumps. A recent survey found 40 percent of samples taken from water pumps around the camps were contaminated with e coli.

People are still arriving at Cox's Bazar from Myanmar, putting extra strain on already very limited resources. The United Nations has warned that unless there's continued international focus and funding, the humanitarian emergency in the camps will only get worse.

The Rohingya are at the centre for lifesaving nutritional support, and everyone comes with a tail of terror from their homeland of Myanmar.

In the case of refugee Maimona, the horror of what happened a year ago is something she'll never be able to forget. Her husband and two sons were taken by the military, women were raped and homes were burned to the ground.

"The soldiers threw babies into the burning huts," she told Newshub.

"As for my husband and sons, I don't have any news. I don't know whether they are dead or alive."

Malnourished children like three-year-old Aziz Khan turn up to the centre with a range of other illnesses.

"My boy is suffering a fever and has diarrhea," says his father Rostimmati.

"That's why I have come here."

Ms Klomp says the highest mortality rates among children at the centre are pneumonia, diarrhea and fever-related illnesses.

It's a daily struggle, but nutrient-rich cereal and checks provided by Tearfund's partner agency helps ensure these people remain resilient.