Alam's short life ended today in a dark, tattered tent in Bangladesh, the Rohingya child's skeletal body succumbing to illness contracted while fleeing Myanmar where his stateless people are under attack. He was six-months-old. Alam died hours after arriving at a makeshift refugee camp close to Teknaf, the gateway to Cox's Bazar, a poor, densely populated coastal area already home to more than 230,000 Rohingya refugees.
But for the Rohingya, Bangladesh is far from a promised land. So far little or no aid has been provided for the new arrivals, with Bangladeshi authorities fearing food, medicine and shelter will encourage more to cross the border. With her child's emaciated body by her side, 22-year-old Nur Begum describes how a Myanmar army raid that killed her husband and two other children forced her to flee Rakhine State for Bangladesh with the tiny Alam. After three-week trip with little food, Begum and her increasingly sick child made it to the camp in Leda, across the Bangladeshi border. But Alam's journey was at an end. "I finally had some food in the camp and thought I would be able to feed him," his distraught mother told AFP. "But he left me before I had the chance." Her baby was buried today, his body washed and then carried to a Rohingya graveyard on a wooded hill near the camp. Up to 30,000 Rohingya have abandoned their homes in Myanmar since early October, after soldiers poured into the strip of land in western Rakhine state following deadly raids on border posts. The refugees who have reached Cox's Bazar so far have brought with them horrifying stories of gang rape and murder. The Myanmar army flatly denies the allegations that Myanmar does not want its more than one million Rohingya population is not in dispute. It refuses them citizenship while many in the majority Buddhist country call the Muslim minority "Bengalis" - shorthand for illegal immigrants. Bangladesh provides a mixed reception to the Rohingya. Although people around Cox's Bazar have centuries-long historical ties with the Rohingya, locals increasingly perceive the refugees as a crime-prone nuisance. Only 32,000 Rohingya are formally registered as refugees. The remaining 200,000 scratch an existence without help from government or charities and their numbers swell with every crisis across the border in Myanmar.
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