The United Nations and its partner non-government organizations (NGOs) pleaded Friday for nearly U.S. $1 billion to aid 900,000 Rohingya refugees and 330,000 vulnerable locals hosting them in communities along Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar.
The U.N. said the $951 million (79 billion taka) it was trying to raise for its 2018 Joint Response Plan would go into meeting urgent needs of the refugee and host populations. These range from supplying them with more food, water and sanitation to building thousands of classrooms and helping them prepare for monsoonal rains, officials said.
“The suffering of the Rohingya people remains deep, disturbing and relentless. As a result, Bangladesh has witnessed the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Friday in a statement.
“The Rohingya are under siege as a group – simply for who they are. Many refugees are victims of horrific trauma – psychological and physical – cast out of their homes and country in a clear example of ethnic cleansing.”
The appeal for the money is in addition to $434 million (36 billion taka) the U.N. had requested in October 2017 for emergency aid – of which $321 million (26.6 billion taka) has been collected – in responding to what the United Nations called “the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.”
In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi joined the director general of the International Organization for Migration and the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh to announce the appeal bringing together more than 100 U.N. agencies and NGOs.
“We are talking about truly critical needs here both on the part of the Bangladeshi communities who have so generously opened their doors, and of a stateless and refugee population that even prior to this crisis was among the world’s most marginalized and at risk,” Grandi said according to a news release issued by his agency, UNHCR, on Friday.
In Dhaka, Md Mohsin, an additional secretary of Bangladesh’s ministry of disaster management and relief overseeing Rohingya refugees, told BenarNews he was unaware of the latest U.N. appeal, but welcomed the effort.
“What I can say is the U.N. system and agencies have been very serious about feeding and ensuring basic necessities of the Rohingya,” he said. “We welcome the appeal as Rohingya people have been a big burden on us.
“But we are not sure how long the international community will feed these people,” he said.
Fifty-four percent of funds from the new appeal would be spent to ensure that food, water and sanitation, shelter and other basic aid is provided as food needs account for one-quarter of the request, the United Nations reported. More than 16 million liters (4.2 million gallons) of clean water is needed every day and about 12,200 metric tons of food is required every month.
The response plan points to the need for nearly 200 primary health centers and smaller posts to serve the Rohingya community and others in Cox’s Bazar, the Bangladeshi district that has borne the brunt of the latest influx of refugees from Rakhine. To educate 614,000 children, another 5,000 classrooms are needed.
In addition, 400,000 children in refugee and host communities require trauma care and related support.
The Kutupalong-Balukhali site in Cox’s Bazar is home to about 600,000 Rohingya and is the largest and most densely populated refugee settlement in the world, according to the U.N.
“Precarious conditions for the refugees and the ongoing emergency response are about to be further challenged by the approaching monsoon season and rains,” the U.N. said. “More than 150,000 Rohingya refugees are in places at risk of landslides and floods, in what could become a disaster on top of the current emergency.”
The conditions include incidents of gender-based violence and health concerns including measles, diphtheria and diarrhea.
“The solutions to this crisis lie inside Myanmar, and conditions must be established that will allow refugees to return home. But today we are appealing for help with the immediate needs, and these needs are vast,” Grandi said.
The U.N. and human rights groups have criticized Myanmar’s military and security forces over a brutal crackdown launched in northern Rakhine State in August 2017 that forced 671,000 people from the stateless Rohingya ethnic minority to flee to southeastern Bangladesh.
Myanmar government forces have been accused of committing widespread atrocities against Rohingya civilians during the crackdown, which followed attacks on army and police posts by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents.
Myanmar’s government has denied the allegations.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.