Bangladeshi troops to deliver foreign aid to Rohingya refugees after humanitarian agencies fumble

Rohingya Refugees raise their hands to get relief in Ukhiya, Bangladesh on Sept 14, 2017. Many of the Rohingya fleeing the violence in Myanmar had travelled by boat to find refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. PHOTO: EPA

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AFP) - Bangladesh will use troops to deliver foreign aid to the border town that has been overwhelmed by Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar, authorities announced.

The move follows criticism of the chaotic conditions in which relief supplies have been handed out at the huge camps around Cox's Bazar, where about 389,000 Rohingya from Myanmar's Rakhine state have arrived since Aug 25.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Parliament late on Thursday (Sept 14) that the army would handle relief aid that several nations have sent in recent days.

"I have given the army responsibility to make sure the relief goods properly reach them (Rohingya) and to oversee what's in the relief materials," she said.

Initially, the army will be responsible for taking the aid to Cox's Bazar.

"We've got the directive that the army would receive relief materials sent by foreign nations at the airport and take it to Cox's Bazar," Lieutenant Colonel Rashidul Hasan said on Friday.

It was not clear whether there would be a change in the way aid is distributed at the Rohingya camps.

Relief workers are struggling to cope with the huge numbers, with 10,000-20,000 people crossing the border each day.

The United Nations has warned of a looming "worst case scenario" with all of the Muslim minority group trying to leave Buddhist-dominated Myanmar's Rakhine state, where a military crackdown was launched on Aug 25.

Aid agencies have said thousands of Rohingya were half-starving and a major health emergency could break out unless order is restored in aid management.

AFP correspondents have seen fighting break out among the refugees as food bags and water bottles were tossed from aid trucks near near the Kutupalong refugee camps.

UN officials acknowledge they were taken by surprise by the scope of the exodus.

The UN's International Organisation for Migration has said it will form a group of all UN agencies and private groups to coordinate aid work.

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