UN officials plan donor conference for Rohingya refugees

United Nations: Calling the Myanmar Rohingya refugee crisis “the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency”, the heads of three UN aid organisations have said they were seeking 434 million USD for the victims.

The officials — UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and Director-General William Lacy Swing of the International Organisation for Migration — on Monday said a pledging conference would be held in Geneva on October 23, Xinhua reported.

Over 500,000 people have fled “discrimination, violence and persecution as well as isolation and fear” in Myanmar’s Rakhine State into neighbouring Bangladesh since a deadly rebel militia attack on Myanmar Police posts on August 25, the officials said in a statement read out by chief UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at the UN Headquarters.

A related UN announcement said the flow “is the largest refugee movement in the region in decades and brings the total number of Rohingya living in Cox’s Bazar (in Bangladesh) to more than 800,000 people” with the numbers still growing.

“The government of Bangladesh, local charities and volunteers, the UN and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are working in overdrive to provide assistance. 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,” the statement said.

“Every day more vulnerable people arrive with very little, if anything, and settle either in overcrowded existing camps or extremely congested makeshift sites.”

The refugees need food, water, health and other essential needs but basic services are under severe strain, it said.

“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.”

The three principal officials, whose organisations are dealing with the crisis, lauded 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.”

The conference is being hosted by the three UN organisations as well as the European Union and Kuwait, the statement said.

“It provides governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility.”

A Joint Response Plan, already under way, requires 434 million USD to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities — together an estimated 1.2 million people — for the difficult months to come, the statement said.

“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,” the three principals said.