UN seeking more than $850m for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh hosts more than a million Rohingya people, many of whom fled a 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar.

A Rohingya refugee woman carries her child as she looks on in a refugee camp
A Rohingya refugee woman carries her child as she looks on in a refugee camp after a massive fire broke out in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, March 24, 2021. [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

The United Nations is calling for more donations for Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh.

In its annual response plan to the crisis, the UN appealed for $852.4m to provide food and other aid to the mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees and their host communities.

Bangladesh has taken in more than a million Rohingya, many of whom fled Myanmar after a brutal 2017 crackdown by the armed forces. Conflict there has escalated since the military seized power in a coup more than three years ago, and there has been fierce fighting in western Rakhine state where most of the country’s remaining Rohingya live in squalid camps.

About 95 percent of the Rohingya people in Bangladesh remain dependent on humanitarian assistance, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement on Wednesday.

“International solidarity with Bangladesh and refugee protection is needed more than ever as the conflict in Myanmar escalates,” it said.

The UN made a similar appeal last year, asking countries to provide $876m to help the Rohingya, but only $440m was provided.

With the humanitarian crisis largely out of the international spotlight, the UNHCR warned that significant funding shortfalls in recent years has had “serious implications”.

Many of the refugees are struggling to meet their basic needs, it warned, insisting that “sustained assistance is critically and urgently needed.”

More than 75 percent of the refugees receiving aid are women and children, it said, adding that they are facing “heightened risks of abuse, exploitation and gender-based violence”.

“More than half of the refugees in the camps are under 18, languishing amidst limited opportunities for education, skills-building and livelihoods,” the UNHCR said.

The donations will be used to pay for food, shelter, healthcare, drinking water access, protection services, education and other assistance, the agency said.

Many Rohingya wanting to escape conditions in the camps have attempted dangerous, often deadly boat journeys to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, there is little progress towards repatriating the refugees to Myanmar, which is facing a UN genocide probe over the 2017 crackdown.

The country has descended into what some have described as civil war since the 2021 coup removed the democratically-elected government of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The human rights situation in Myanmar has morphed into a never-ending nightmare away from the spotlight of global politics,” UN rights chief Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council this month.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies