By Raqib Hameed Naik, Al Jazeera
Thousands of Rohingya in India battle hunger as a coronavirus outbreak in refugee camps looms large.
‘Starving without food’
Badar Alam from Nuh refugee camp worked at a construction site as a daily wage earner, but he has not been able to work due to the lockdown. The 31-year-old says his family, including his wife and three children, have not had a proper meal in a week.
Alam is left with two kilos of rice, 250 grams of lentils and 250 rupees ($3) in his pocket, with no prospect of work for at least another two weeks. “What am I going to feed my children? Stones?” he asked.
Nearly 1,200 Rohingya families living in the Jammu district of the disputed Kashmir region, who rely on walnut factories for work, are also running short on grains. Refugees say that it is a matter of days before they will have to sleep with empty stomachs.
Hafiz Mubashar runs an Islamic seminary with boarding facilities for Rohingya children in the Bathindi locality of Jammu city. He shut down classes a week ago. But for the past three days he has been receiving calls from students seeking his help in arranging rice and flour.
“The lockdown has exacerbated our food woes,” Mubashar, 27, told Al Jazeera.
“Many of us are already starving, while others have shifted to eating one meal a day or resorted to cutting down their food intake.”
Mubashar believes that the next seven days will be critical for the Rohingya community, as most of the families will soon run out of their remaining grains.
“We are struggling with both hunger and coronavirus at the same time,” Mubashar said.
“But I think hunger will kill us before the virus does.”