DHAKA: Bangladesh has eased restrictions on aid groups working in refugee camps and sought $250 million from the World Bank to fund emergency relief, officials said Tuesday, after an influx of more than 435,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar has overwhelmed its border area. The government NGO Affairs Bureau cleared 30 local and international groups to meet "emergency needs" in camps and said more would follow, Shahdat Hossain, a bureau director, told AFP. Bangladesh has strictly limited access to Rohingya camps in recent years. It has never given reasons, but the country is sensitive about security and there are fears a Muslim influx could tempt extremist groups. However, a new deluge of refugees since August 25 has put pressure on the existing camps, which were already home to 300,000 Rohingya Muslims who had fled earlier unrest in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar. The camps are currently facing dire shortages of food and medicine, while the World Health Organisation warned Monday of a growing risk of cholera. The aid groups still only have permission to work for two months in the camps around the border town of Cox's Bazar, Hossain said, and must focus on providing healthcare, sanitation facilities and shelters for the Rohingya. The new groups include local and international charities. Authorities previously only let four international groups -- including Doctors With Border (MSF) and Action Against Hunger (ACF) -- provide food and healthcare.
Muslim Aid, a British-based charity given permission to operate in Cox's Bazar last week but whose access was later revoked, remains barred. It operates in other parts of Bangladesh. Authorities briefly ordered MSF, ACF and Muslim Aid to stop providing aid to the Rohingya in 2012.