UNITED NATIONS– A United Nations envoy has called for enhanced measures to protect and assist victims of sexual violence among thousands of Rohingya refugees who have settled around Bangladesh’s city of Cox Bazar, Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported.

“My observations point to a pattern of widespread atrocities, including rape, gang-rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity directed against Rohingya women and girls,” UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten said Thursday after a visit to the makeshift refugee camps.

The humanitarian crisis caused by escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is causing catastrophic suffering. Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled across the border to Bangladesh since Aug 25.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates Bangladesh now hosts over 800,000 Rohingya refugees.

Patten’s visit, mainly to Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, and to Cox’s Bazar, from Nov 5 to 13 was to better understand the nature, patterns and trends of sexual violence related to the conflict in Myanmar.

It was also to assess options for providing support to Bangladesh government, the UN system and other partners to ensure that the rights of conflict-affected women and girls are respected and upheld in the settlements.

Bangladesh is also in the process of developing a national action plan on women, peace and security, which is an important entry-point for action to address conflict-related sexual violence and other human rights violations against Rohingya women and girls.

However, national institutions and communities in the settlement areas are stretched to the limits of their capacity, to provide the basics of shelter, food, water and primary health care.

In terms of sexual and gender-based violence programmes, there is an acute funding shortfall of more than US$10 million for the next three months to deliver essential services, including clinical case management, community outreach, awareness-raising and the distribution of dignity kits, which contain clothing and sanitary items.

“The international community must come together to support the government of Bangladesh to address this vast humanitarian and protection crisis,” she urged.

All of the women she spoke with wanted the perpetrators to be brought to justice, and to ensure that these atrocities would never repeat, she said.



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