Previously unrecognized potential threat to children from manganese in groundwater in rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh


The forced displacement of over 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the crackdown in August 2017 has resulted in a critical humanitarian and environmental crisis. Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water in the camps that were constructed to provide shelter for the refugee population. The current study explores occurrence of Mn in groundwater in the Rohingya camps and adjacent areas. A total of 52 groundwater samples were collected between August and October 2018 from different camps sites and the adjacent host area. It was found that 64% exceeded the Bangladesh standard (100 μg/L) suggesting the presence of elevated concentrations of Mn in some groundwater aquifers in the camp sites. Mn is a neurotoxicant and previous studies have reported intellectual impairment in children exposed to Mn levels similar to those detected in groundwater in the camp sites. Nearly 450,000 migrant and new-born children live in the camps in already stressed conditions. The occurrence of elevated Mn concentrations in groundwater in the camps and their adjacent areas is likely an additional stressor exposing these children to an increased risk of neurotoxicity. Based on the results of this small-scale study, we recommend undertaking an in-depth study on the occurrence of Mn in groundwater in the camps to come up with appropriate strategies to minimise exposure. In addition, we recommend conducting a systematic epidemiological study on potential impacts of manganese in drinking water on neurological development of the Rohingya children in the camps.

Graphical abstract



M. Feisal Rahman, Md Juel Mahmud, A.H.M. Anwar Sadmani Ahmed I.Chowdhury, William B.Anderson, Abu B.M.Bodruzzaman, Saleemul Huq

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