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UN calls for aid for Rohingya refugees as cyclone season looms

01 March 2019

Levels of malnutrition dropping and conditions still ‘dire’ at Cox’s Bazar


The humanitarian and special ambassador for the UNHCR, Angelina Jolie, holds a press conference after visiting Rohingya refugees in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh, last month

The humanitarian and special ambassador for the UNHCR, Angelina Jolie, holds a press conference after visiting Rohingya refugees in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar...

EIGHTEEN months have passed since 750,000 Rohingya fled persecution in Myanmar to live a precarious existence in huge refugee camps over the border in Bangladesh (News, 8 September 2017).

As the crisis becomes protracted, the United Nations has issued another appeal for $920 million (£712 million) in aid for the refugees. There are now about 945,000 Rohingya living in camps at Cox’s Bazar (News, 4 May 2018) and, although conditions have improved, and levels of malnutrition have dropped, conditions are still “dire”, the UN Migration Agency warned.

The cyclone season is fast approaching, and the fragile shelters of the camp offer little protection from the wind and rains.

Tearfund’s Response Manager at Cox’s Bazar, James Rana, said that, as the crisis continued, funding was decreasing and some projects run by charities for refugees had already ended.

Tearfund staff arrived at Cox’s Bazar just one week after the Rohingya began arriving in August 2017. After urgent needs for food and shelter were met, the charity focused on non-food needs, including installing solar lighting around the camp, digging drains and putting in latrines, and providing safe spaces for children and adults to work with trauma counsellors.

Mr Rana said: “Over the last 18 months, the needs of the population have changed, and we are now needing to maintain some of the facilities and improve hygiene.”

He said that there was little information about when the situation for the Rohingya might improve.

A plan last November to repatriate some of the refugee population to Myanmar was cancelled at the last moment after protests in the camp (News, 30 November 2018) .

UN investigators have accused Myanmar’s army of “genocidal intent” and ethnic cleansing. Myanmar has denied the accusations, saying that its forces had engaged in a counter-insurgency operation against “terrorists”.

Bangladesh has pledged not to repatriate anyone who does not wish to return.

Mr Rana said that Bangladesh’s government and people had been extraordinarily generous to the refugees. “The government and the population have been very welcoming and will remain so, but Bangladesh is not a rich country, and it needs support and funding from the international community.”

Last year, the UN received only 69 per cent of the $950 (£735) million it requested for the Rohingya refugees.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said: “We encourage countries in this region and beyond to show solidarity with Bangladesh and to support Myanmar to start creating conditions for voluntary, safe, and dignified return of Rohingya refugees.”

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