Bangladesh, UN seek $876M from donors for Rohingya amid funds crunch

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Bangladesh, UN seek $876M from donors for Rohingya amid funds crunch Rohingya collect drinking water at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept. 29, 2022.
[Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

In Geneva on Tuesday, the United Nations and Bangladesh asked donors for U.S. $876 million to support the Rohingya refugee community for another year after 2022’s funding shortfall forced the World Food Program to reduce aid.

Bangladesh authorities, along with 116 domestic and international partners, said the funds under the “Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis” were needed to serve 1.47 million people this year, according to Johannes van der Klaauw, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR’s representative in Dhaka.

The funds would “help some 978,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and on the island of Bhashan Char, and 495,000 Bangladeshis in neighboring communities, with food, shelter, health care, access to drinkable water, protection services, education, as well as livelihood opportunities and skills development,” van der Klaauw said in a statement.

“The lack of funds has already forced the World Food Program to cut its lifesaving food assistance to all Rohingya living in the camps; despite concerted humanitarian efforts, 45% of Rohingya families are not eating a sufficiently healthy diet and malnutrition is widespread.”

The U.N. World Food Program announced last month that it will cut food aid to the Rohingya starting this month because of funding shortfalls. The cut in aid to $10 per Rohingya per month from $12 is likely to cause more misery, hunger and violence in the camps, activists said.

“It is therefore vital to ensure continued funding and support to be able to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining assistance to the camp population while also investing in education, skills training and livelihood opportunities, allowing refugees to partially fulfil their basic needs with their own means,” the UNHCR official said.

So far, only the United States has announced support for the Joint Response Plan, announcing $26 million in new humanitarian assistance on Tuesday. This year’s contribution, though, is lower than last year’s $152 million.

Since 2017, the U.S. has been the largest contributor to the Joint Response Plan, having committed $1.72 billion through 2022.

While announcing this year’s support, the U.S. said that while it reaffirms its solidarity toward the Rohingya in Bangladesh, it also recognizes that until the South Asian government shifts its policies, the refugees’ options are limited.

“[T]hat is why I call on Bangladesh to reexamine its restrictions on allowing refugees to earn a living,” Julieta Valls Noyes, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Population, Refugees, and Migration, said in a statement.

“Restrictions on livelihoods deny Rohingya the ability to provide for themselves and the sense of purpose many of us get from our vocations.”

About 1 million Rohingya, including about 740,000 who fled Myanmar following a brutal military offensive in their home state of Rakhine in August 2017, live mostly in crowded and sprawling refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, a southeastern Bangladeshi district near the Myanmar border.

In November 2017, the two nations agreed to a repatriation plan, but efforts to return the Rohingya to their homes have failed.

Many of the stateless Rohingya have grown desperate because they see no hope of being repatriated to Myanmar, which is convulsed with violence following the February 2021 military coup, rights advocates and NGOs in the region have said.

‘Please be kind’

The Rohingya are worried as they see financial support for them decreasing.

“It has been the sixth year since we arrived in Bangladesh for refuge. Our food shortage has been increasing every year,” Shafi Ullah, a leader of the Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, told BenarNews on Tuesday.

Reduced international support would result in further crises, he said.

“We do not know what will happen to our children. We are worried about our future generations,” Ullah said.

Another Rohingya leader from Balukhali camp in Ukhia, Abdul Amin, said buying a bundle of leafy vegetables costs 20 to 25 taka (19 to 24 U.S. cents) while the daily food allocation was 33 taka (31 cents).

“How can a person survive with 1,000 taka a month ($10)?” he told BenarNews, referring to the World Food Program’s cut in aid to $10 per Rohingya per month.

“Our families are getting bigger every day, increasing our demands for essentials. In this situation, we earnestly appeal to the international community: Please be kind to save the lives of the Rohingya people.”

Amin said that he foresees an increase in criminal activities at the refugee camps, where “more people will be the victims of human trafficking, if international assistance goes down.”

Former diplomat Munshi Fayaz Ahmad attributes the decline in international assistance for the Rohingya to the war in Ukraine.

“This war has aggravated the global economic crisis. Major donors such as the U.S. and the U.K. are not in good economic shape,” Fayaz, a former envoy to China, told BenarNews.

“The funds they have been providing despite the ongoing economic trouble are not enough, but are not insignificant. If they did not offer the money, then Bangladesh would need to provide it.”

Fayaz said the only sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis was their “voluntary, safe and dignified return to Myanmar.

“Bangladesh should provide support to the ongoing trial at the International Court of Justice for the genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Rohingya. If the verdict goes in favor of the Rohingya, then Myanmar would feel the pressure to accept them,” he said.

“The international community should work together to end the ongoing civil war in Myanmar. Unless the civil war ends, the Rohingya are unlikely to return home.”

Sunil Barua in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.


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