Rohingyas the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis
The number of Rohingya refugees who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar has hit a staggering half million in just five weeks, according to the UN’s refugee agency.
After violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 25, more than 500,000 refugees have crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh, the UNHCR said this week.
It said the refugees have fled discrimination, violence and persecution, as well as isolation and fear.
“The speed and scale of the influx made it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency,” a UNHCR statement said.
The Government of Bangladesh, local charities and volunteers, the UN and NGOs are working in overdrive to provide assistance, the statement said.
“But much more is urgently needed. The efforts must be scaled up and expanded to receive and protect refugees and ensure they are provided with basic shelter and acceptable living conditions,” said UNHCR Commissioner Filippo Grandi.
“Every day more vulnerable people arrive with very little – if anything – and settle either in overcrowded existing camps or extremely congested makeshift sites,” Mr Grandi said.
He said the refugees were fully dependent on humanitarian assistance for food, water, health and other essential needs adding that basic services were under severe strain.
“In some sites, there is no access to potable water, and sanitation facilities are absent, raising health risks for both the refugees and the communities hosting them,” Mr Grandi said.
The UN has praised Bangladesh for keeping its borders open, offering safety and shelter to fleeing families.
“We have been moved by the welcome and generosity shown by the local communities towards the refugees,” Mr Grandi said.
He said vital pledging conference in Geneva on October 23 was being organized by UN agencies and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait.
“It will provide Governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility,” Mr Grandi said.
“Their further generous support for the Joint Response Plan, which was recently launched by the UN and partners, is urgently needed to sustain and scale up the large humanitarian effort already under way,” he said.
The plan requires US$434 million to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities – a total of 1.2 million people.
Mr Grandi said the origins and the solutions to the crisis were inside Myanmar.
“We call on the international community to intensify efforts to bring a peaceful solution to the plight of the Rohingya, to end the desperate exodus, to support host communities and ensure the conditions that will allow for refugees’ eventual voluntary return in safety and dignity,” Mr Grandi said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist