World Bulletin / News Desk
Hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in squalid, overcrowded camps in India's northeast desperately need food, water and medicines after fleeingsome of the worst communal violence in a decade, officials and aid workers said on Monday.
At least 12 people, including four children, have died and thousands are sick with diseases such as diahorrea and malaria caused by poor conditions in government-run camps in Assam state, where up to 400,000 people have taken refuge.
"We are in a state of high alert," said Assam's Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. "People in thecamps are suffering from diahorrea, dysentery, malaria and high fever. We are concerned about the condition of the babies and pregnant women."
Violence between Bodo tribespeople and Muslim settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh erupted on July 20 when unidentified men killed four Bodo youths. In retaliation, armed Bodos - which dominate Assam's Kokrajhar district - attacked Muslims, suspecting them of being behind the deaths.
The fighting has tested the ability of India's security forces to restore order in Assam, famed for its tea plantations and home to the constituency of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who visited the state inlate July to appeal for calm.
So far 61 people have died - some hacked to death with machetes, while dozens of villages have been razed to the ground, forcing both Bodos and Muslims to flee to schools and community centres which have been converted into relief camps.
Sarma said around 8,000 children under two-years-old are sick, while hundreds of others have tested positive for malaria. There are also around 4,000 pregnant women in the camps who need medical support, he added.
FEARFUL TO RETURN HOME
Aid workers described the camps as "suffocating" with livestock living alongside people, few toilets and little access to clean water. Many people sleep in the open and women have little privacy, forced to wait for dawn or dusk to find a place outside to defecate.
Authorities have been overwhelmed by the numbers of displaced -- camps designed to accommodate 400 people are brimming with five times that amount, said aid workers.
"The government is lost and they are somewhat overwhelmed by the number of people who are displaced. They came in hordes and while relief is being distributed, it is totally inadequate," saidMrinal Gohain, northeast manager for the charity ActionAid.
Authorities are encouraging some of the displaced to return home, saying that the situation is under control with police and army patrols, as well as a curfew in some areas.
But aid workers distributing relief in the camps say survivors are too scared to return, especially after reports that five more people were killed over the weekend.
"There is a serious safety issue. Despite what the government says, people are traumatised and fearful and unwilling to return," said Geeta Majumdar from the charity Catholic Relief Services.
"Given the conditions inside the camps and the lack of security and safety outside, we are extremely concerned. Health is a priority and we are worried about epidemics occurring with such unsanitary conditions in such cramped spaces."
Warrant, third issued in connection with bombings that killed 4, for man from Muslim majority province of Pattani
The Uzbek president's daughter says her father is in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage.
Comes after over 170 Indonesians caught with Philippine passports before departing from Manila airport for Saudi Arabia
17-year-old held on suspicion of terror attack claims to be inspired by ISIL leader, attack by knifemen in France
Anti-mosquito breeding efforts intensifies as residents criticize government for not having detected infections earlier
Australian foreign minister says Kerry Wilson, 60, ‘safe and well’ 4 months after abduction in Jalalabad
Three people linked to 2009 assault on Sri Lankan cricket team die as gunmen open fire police convoy in Lahore
Presidential order repeated to destroy Daesh-linked group after Aug. 24 beheading of 18-year-old Filipino hostage
The five-day talks will bring hundreds of ethnic minority rebel leaders to the capital, along with military top brass and international delegates such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Royal held talks with the head of Iran's Environmental Protection Organisation, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and said they would build several key partnerships by February.
50 heavily-armed members of Maute group raid local jail in southern city of Marawi, freeing suspected comrades and 20 others
Statement by reclusive state’s foreign ministry slams US and 'followers', accuses UNSC of threatening its right to exist
Senior police official says detention of senior independence figures is sign of crackdown
Police seize Mirwaiz Umar Farooq outside home, party member says
Ex-government, nationalists claim Rakhine State - home to country's Rohingya Muslims - national issue, not international