UN to seek $430 mn in aid for up to 1.2 mn Rohingya refugees

04 October 2017

The United Nations said on Tuesday that it would appeal for $430 million in aid from the international community over the next six months to respond to the Rohingya Muslim refugee crisis in Bangladesh.

The figure is more than double of what was calculated weeks earlier when the number of refugees was lower.

Six weeks after the UN relief operations started, Mark Lowcock, the UN head for humanitarian affairs said that the conditions in Rohingya camps were terrible and that the UN would make an appeal on 23 October in Geneva.

"We are imminently going to be publishing an update to the UN response plan and will be looking, in order to support the government of Bangladesh and Bangladesh's own institutions, to raise from international community something like $430 million to enable us to scale up the relief operation," Lowcock said in a press conference in Cox's Bazar, a border district in Bangladesh where most of the refugees are living.

"We have a fantastic set of proposals that come from all the response agencies and we are in a stage now where the main constrain we face is finance for those essential programs," he added.

According to the UN, there are up to 1.2 million people, many of them children, who need life-saving help. There are an estimated 809,000 Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, more than half a million of whom have arrived since 25 August to join 300,000 Rohingya who were already there.

''The Rohingya population in Cox's Bazar is highly vulnerable, many having experienced severe trauma, and are now living in extremely difficult conditions,'' Robert Watkins, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said in a release.

The executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, said that the situation of refugees in Bangladesh was catastrophic for every refugee.

"I have never practically seen, around the world, people who are so traumatised by the experiences that they have suffered. And I mean not only the children but the women who have watched the male members of their family being slaughtered and they themselves sometimes being raped," Lake said, referring to the crimes faced by the refugees before entering Bangladesh.

Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas. It says its forces are fighting insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) who claimed responsibility for attacks on about 30 police posts and an army camp on 25 August.

The UN, however, has earlier described the case of the Rohingyas as ''a classic example of ethnic cleansing''.

The relief agencies' plan factors in the possibility of another 91,000 refugees arriving, as the influx was continuing day to day, Watkins said.

''The plan targets 1.2 million people, including all Rohingya refugees, and 300,000 Bangladeshi host communities over the next six months,'' he said.

''A rapid response from donors to this response plan is essential if the humanitarian organisations are to move ahead with critical activities to save lives, and provide protection to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,'' Watkins said.

Half a million people need food while 100,000 emergency shelters are also needed. More than half of the Rohingya population are children, while 24,000 pregnant women need maternity care, the aid agencies said in their plan.

The Rohingya are regarded as illegal immigrants in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and most are stateless. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism for not doing more to stop the violence, although she has no power over the security forces under a military-drafted constitution.

She has condemned rights abuses and said Myanmar was ready to start a process agreed with Bangladesh in 1993 under which anyone verified as a refugee would be accepted back. But many Rohingya are pessimistic about their chances of going home, partly because many do not have official papers confirming their residency.

Most are also wary about returning without an assurance of full citizenship, which they fear could leave them vulnerable to the persecution and discrimination they have endured for years.

Human Rights Watch said it had found evidence that the Myanmar military had summarily executed dozens of Rohingya in a village called Maung Nu, in the north of Rakhine state, on 27 August, two days after the insurgent attacks on security posts triggered the violence.

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