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Quarter of Rohingya refugee children acutely malnourished

ETHNIC CLEANSING. Myanmar Rohingya refugees look on in a refugee camp in Teknaf, in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, on November 26, 2016.

File photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

GENEVA, Switzerland – A quarter of Rohingya children under the age of 5 who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar suffer from potentially life-threatening levels of malnutrition, the United Nations said Friday, December 22.

The UN children's agency said that 3 health and nutrition surveys conducted between October 22 and November 27 showed up to 25% of the young children crammed into Bangladeshi refugee camps have acute malnutrition, among other maladies.

"Nearly half the children surveyed have anaemia, up to 40 per cent have diarrhoea, and up to 60 per cent have acute respiratory infections," UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told reporters in Geneva.

More than 655,000 people from the Rohingya minority Muslim community have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state since late August during military operations that the UN has described as ethnic cleansing.

Around half of them are children.

Bangladesh's UNICEF head Edouard Beigbeder said that "our worst fears have been confirmed".

"Refugee children who have already endured unimaginable suffering in fleeing their homes are now facing a public health crisis," Beigbeder said in a statement.

On November 3, UNICEF warned that 7.5% of the children in one of the camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district were at risk of dying from acute malnutrition.

New surveys at the Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps, as well as other make-shift settlements, that included more than 1,700 children highlighted the worsening situation.

"Less than 16% of children are consuming a minimal acceptable diet," UNICEF said.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told Agence France-Presse on Monday that Myanmar clearly "planned" violent attacks on its Rohingya minority, causing a mass-exodus, and warned the crackdown could possibly amount to "genocide". – Rappler.com