Some 2,000 Rohingya refugees a day continue to stream across the border to Bangladesh, bringing the total number people who have fled there from violence in Myanar since late August to an estimated 515,000, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.
Observers believe that as many as 100,000 more people may be waiting to cross to the southeast Bangladeshi port of Cox's Bazar from Myanmar's Rakhine state, the International Organisation for Migration said, citing staff members monitoring the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
Aid agencies are warning of acute shortages of food for the exhausted, hungry and weak refugees arriving in Cox's Bazar, which could soon lead to widespread malnutrition, IOM said.
An estimated 218,000 people are already in need of urgent nutrition support, including 145,000 children under the age of five and thousands of pregnant and lactating women.
IOM medical staff, who have carried out over 33,000 consultations since August 25, say that healthcare is stretched to the limit in the overcrowded existing camps and makeshift settlements, partly due to the lack of access to clean water and growing numbers of diarrhoea cases.
"IOM has already delivered 310,000 litres of clean water to refugee sites, but this remains a drop in the ocean in the context of daily needs," the agency said.
IMO said it appealed this week to nations for 120 million dollars through March to provide desperately needed aid to the Rohingya refugees who have flooded into Cox's Bazar over the past six weeks.
Rohingya civilians began fleeing Myanmar after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts there on August 25, prompting security forces to launch a counter-offensive which the UN has described as "a textbook case of ethnic cleansing".
The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim ethnic minority, have long faced persecution in Rakhine in northern Myanmar (Burma).
Bloody riots in 2012 forced over 100,000 Rohingya to flee to refugee camps in southeast Bangladesh, where many still live.