A Rohingya mother and her five-year-old daughter have been found among 200 people rescued in Indonesia after being adrift on a boat for almost a month.
Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, a Rohingya refugee living in a camp in Bangladesh, told Sky News his sister Hatemonnesa and his niece Umme Salima were rescued by Indonesian authorities on Monday.
They were among around 160 Rohingyas that left Bangladesh for Malaysia on board a large boat at the end of November, which ended up stranded after its engine failed.
The men, women and children were rescued from the rickety wooden vessel on Boxing Day after it washed up on Ujong Pie beach in Aceh province, in the northwest tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Indonesian fishermen and local authorities rescued more than 200 people in total between Sunday and Monday, with the majority being women and children.
Left without supplies and in the middle of the sea, a number of people reportedly died from starvation during the perilous trip, but Hatemonnesa and her young child were among those that survived.
Mr Rezuwan Khan said he was crying when he managed to speak with his family on a video call, having not been able to contact them for a month.
“We felt like we got a new world today”, he said, adding that the mother and daughter both looked exhausted.
He explained that his sister decided to embark on the risky journey because of the dire conditions in the refugee camp in Bangladesh, and hoped to find better opportunities for her daughter in Malaysia.
Exhausted and dehydrated
In a phone call on 18 December, a person on the vessel was heard saying “we are dying here” and “we are starving”, adding that some had already lost their lives.
Those rescued over the last couple of days were exhausted and dehydrated, and told the UNHRC that some 26 people died due to the dire conditions onboard.
According to the UN, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people attempting to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh and Myanmar this year, with more than 1,900 people dying since January.
Most of those risking their lives are Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in their hundreds of thousands in 2017 to escape military persecution.
Security forces in Myanmar have been accused of mass rapes and killings of Rohingya people and the burning of thousands of their homes.