Around 15,000 Rohingya refugees are marooned at Daungkhali Char in Myanmar’s Maungdaw Township for the past two weeks, are fighting against hunger, thirst and illness.
The remote island is located near the Teknaf Upazila of Cox’s Bazar.
It is difficult for the Rohingya to leave the island as Bangladesh has suspended plying of vessels on the Naf River.
Many desperate refugees, unable to tolerate hunger and thirst, are trying to cross the river using makeshift rafts or swimming with plastic containers to stay afloat.
In the last couple of days, 182 Rohingya people, including 57 women and 83 children, have crossed the river on makeshift rafts. Another 62 Rohingya youths had swam across the river with plastic containers the previous week.
Around 200 Rohingya refugees have been killed while attempting to cross the Naf River by boats, trawlers and by swimming so far.
Border Guard Bangladesh Tenkaf-2 Commanding Officer Lt Col SM Ariful Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “As there is an embargo on all types of water vessel movements on the Naf River due to the unrest in the border region, the Rohingya are now crossing the river in riskier ways.”
Refugees who recently entered Bangladesh from Daungkhali Char, claimed that the Myanmar Army and the local Mogh people are still torturing the Rohingya in Rakhine state by taking their crops, forcing them to accept National Verification Cards, grabbing their properties and torching their homes.
They added that there was no food or drinking water available on the island.
Mohammad Hasan, a native of Buthidaung who recently arrived in Bangladesh, told the Journalist a harrowing tale of his escape from the little island.
He said they waited for a boat at Daungkhali Char for 20 days.
On the 18th day, they ran out of food, and survived only by drinking water. Fearing death from starvation, he built a makeshift raft for crossing the Naf River to enter Bangladesh.
Another Rohingya refugee Nurul Kabir, a native of Maungdaw, claimed that it took more than six hours for him to cross five kilometres of the river on a raft made of bamboo stalks and plastic containers.
“I had no money to pay for my trip across the river. A boat was willing to take us, but I could not afford the fare. So, I used a raft,” said Juhra Khatun, a Rohingya woman from Rathedaung.
“They [Myanmar forces] set fire to my home, so I took my children and fled to Bangladesh with barely anything of value. I took a great risk crossing the river on a raft, because I had to save my children,” she added.
The initial mass exodus of Rohingya refugees began in late August and gradually slowed down from the first week of September this year. However, the influx spiked again from mid-October, and continues unabated to this day.
According to Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, about 625,000 Rohingya refugees entered Bangladesh from August 25 to November 8, fleeing a brutal military campaign in Rakhine state.