Days of heavy rain in eastern Bangladesh have sparked panic in the unofficial Kutupalong camp that houses tens of thousands of refugees from Burma, with flimsy huts destroyed and food shortages worsening.

A Kutupalong camp committee member told the Bangladesh-based Kaladan Press Network yesterday that several huts had been washed out, while many others had lost roofs.

Concerns have also mounted about the ability of the refugees in the camp, none of whom are recognised by the UN’s refugee agency and thus receive no UN assistance, to provide food for themselves, with their normal means of making money scuppered by the extreme weather conditions.

Kutupalong houses thousands of refugees from the Rohingya minority, which have fled their native Arakan state in western Burma following systematic persecution by the Burmese government, which refuses to grant them citizenship rights.

Estimates of the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh range from 200,000 to 400,000 – wary of creating a pull-factor for more refugees, the Bangladeshi government has allowed only 28,000 to be registered by the UN.

In June, Bangladesh’s food minister, Abdur Razzaque, warned Western nations against pressuring Dhaka to register the remaining Rohingya, the vast majority of whom have sought refuge in Cox’s Bazar, where as in the rest of Bangladesh, overcrowding and scarcity of resources are serious problems.

Physicians for Human Rights estimate that the acute malnutrition rate for children in Kutapalong, one of the main unofficial Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, is 18.2 percent. This is defined by being 60 percent or less of the median average weight for the age group, which the World Health Organisation suggests will result in a 30 to 50 percent mortality rate amongst the inflicted.

The Holland chapter of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) provides medical assistance to the Kutupalong camp, but complaints continually surface that aid is in short supply. As well as the infrastructural problems that rainy season brings, the wet weather conditions also fuel illnesses such pneumonia and malaria.