Staff fear the hospital could soon run out of basic supplies, including medicines
More than 380,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence since August 25
Overflowing with patients, many of them lying on thin, dirty mattresses on the floor, the Chittagong Hospital in Bangladesh is at breaking point.
The facility acts as the main trauma center – and the main lifeline – for Rohingya who have been injured fleeing violence in Myanmar.
Of the more than 100 Rohingya refugees that have been admitted, most of them have sustained injuries from gunshots, landmines or other explosions, the hospital director Brigadier General Muhammed Jalal Uddin tells CNN.
A 13-year-old Rohingya girl, Umme Salma, arrived at the hospital on September 6 with a gunshot wound.
“The army fire bombed my house, then shot at me when I was trying to run away,” she told CNN. “My mother is also here, she got shot three times. We came here by walking through the hills. My brother brought us to the hospital.”
More than 380,000 Rohingya – many of them young women and children – have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence since August 25, according to the United Nations, an average of almost 20,000 a day.
The predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has denied Rohingya residents the rights of citizenship, considering them to be Bangladeshi, but Bangladesh likewise denies them civil and political rights, saying they’re Burmese. As a result, they’re effectively stateless.
“I want to return to Myanmar, I want to go to school. But only when it’s safe,” she adds.
The Myanmar government says 176 out of 471 of all Rohingya villages are now empty of people, and an additional 34 villages were “partially abandoned.”
Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar’s Presidential Office, said the reason people abandoned their homes was because many were told to leave by family members who were involved in terrorist activities.
According to 2014 census, Myanmar’s Rohingya were estimated to number about 1 million, with the majority clustered in small often isolated villages in the northern part of Rakhine State along the border with Bangladesh and India.
At the Chittagong Hospital, another victim, Yousuf Nabi, 30, lies on a mattress along with dozens of others in the hotel corridor. His legs were both partially blown off when he stepped on a landmine trying to escape Myanmar.
“I’m blind, I can’t see,” was all he could say, while pointing towards his badly scarred face. The doctor says his facial injuries were likely caused by the gunpowder from the blast.
On a good day, this hospital is overcrowded and under resourced. With this latest crisis, it has pushed the staff to their limits.
“I have not seen such things in my 33 years experience, I have never before received so many bullet injuries and bomb blast injuries,” said Mohammed Iqbal Hossain, director of orthopaedic surgery at the hospital.
The United Nations said the current wave of violence has left at least 1,000 people dead.
“It is very difficult to cope but our government is very alert about the situation, they are very concerned, everybody is concerned for these people. Some people are coming from the outside to help them. Volunteers, people bringing money,” he added.
The hospital is now fast running out of the medical supplies they need.
“We are providing food, medical services, accommodation to all of these people. But we don’t have enough medicines,” said Brigadier General Muhammed Jalal Uddin. “When we do not have the right medicine we get help from the Patient Welfare Association.”
“The load on the orthopedic department is almost double the number of patients as usual. It has become difficult,” he added. “To address this we have given extra nurses, doctors to help.”
The situation at the hospital is just the tip of the iceberg of a spiraling humanitarian crisis, as tens of thousands of desperate refugees continue to flee over the border to Bangladesh every new day. The Myanmar government says it is conducting “clearance operations” targeting terrorists and says it will do its best to protect civilians.
The UN’s human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, however, has described the operation as appearing to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”