COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, (APP/AFP): The five-year-old Rohingya boy was so emaciated that doctors could not insert a drip into his tiny arm, one of thousands of children facing life-threatening malnutrition in overstretched Bangladeshi refugee camps.
"He said he hadn't eaten anything in eight days. Nothing," said Dr SK Jahidur Rahman at a clinic run by Bangladeshi medical charity Gonoshasthaya Kendra.
The lucky ones make it to the overwhelmed clinics just in time. But some are not so fortunate, dying before help can reach them or forced to beg by the roadside.
The UN says more than 14,100 children are at risk of dying from malnutrition in wretched camps where half a million mainly Rohingya refugees depend entirely on charities for survival.
Food distribution in the vastly overcrowded settlements is still ad hoc and uncoordinated, the UN says, more than a month after refugees began pouring into southern Bangladesh to escape ethnic bloodshed in Myanmar.
Huge crowds descend on aid deliveries and soldiers need to herd starving people into bamboo pens where they squat cheek by jowl under the scorching sun for a meal.
Many go hungry as charities scramble to feed 500,000 mouths every day.
Children make up the bulk of new arrivals and are most vulnerable to the paucity of food, with 145,500 infants under five needing urgent intervention to stave off malnutrition, aid agencies say.
"Lots of children are showing all the signs of hunger and malnutrition, which is an alarming prospect when they've just fled so much horror," said Save the Children's emergency health unit director Dr Unni Krishnan .