Aid worker claims Rohingya children are malnourished and naked as they flee Burma violence

A British aid worker in southern Bangladesh has said smoke from burning villages is blackening the horizon as hundreds of thousands of the ethnic minority Rohingya flee violence in Burma.

Madiha Raza, who works for the charity Muslim Aid, said countless barefooted children and families had walked for days after Burmese soldiers shot at and set fire to their towns.

Speaking in England, the 29-year-old, from Northwood in west London, said: "The sheer number of people was crazy. Thousands and thousands stretching for miles and miles. You can't really believe it until you see it.

"They were almost all barefoot, some were naked, they had no time to bring anything. There were so many malnourished children it was unbelievable.

"I could see the smoke rising where their villages are being burnt. The sheer scale of this is like nothing I've ever seen, it's totally different to seeing it on the news."

Some 300,000 of the mainly Muslim ethnic minority Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past fortnight since violence erupted in Rakhine state, on Burma's western coast, following clashes between insurgents and security forces.

Muslim Aid worker Madiha Raza meeting 12-year-old Mohammed Jubair, who was shot in the arm while escaping his burning village, in southern Bangladesh.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the episode seemed like a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and urged the Burmese government to halt the "cruel" military action.

The stateless Rohingya have faced repression in Buddhist-majority Burma - also known as Myanmar - for decades.

Among the exodus, Ms Raza met 12-year-old Mohammed Jubair, who was shot in the arm while fleeing flames, and Rukiyah Begum, 55, who had three family members killed and walked alone for seven days to cross the border.

People defecating in mud-covered streets and a lack of medical supplies means the camps could turn into hotbeds of disease unless more help arrives, she added.

Some people are trapped in makeshift shelters in a "no-man's land" between Burma and Bangladesh where relief teams were forbidden to travel, Ms Raza said.

Bangladesh is reportedly freeing up more land for a new camp as the existing ones are overcrowded and refugees continue to arrive in huge numbers.

Amnesty International said it believes the Burmese military is planting landmines along crossing points used by the Rohingya.

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