Aid groups seek $434m to help 1.2 million Rohingya refugees

THE EXODUS: There are an estimated 809,000 Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh –

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Humanitarian organisations helping Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh said on Wednesday they need $434 million over the next six months to help up to 1.2 million people, most of them children, in dire need of life-saving assistance.
There are an estimated 809,000 Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, more than half a million of whom have arrived since August 25 to join 300,000 Rohingya who are already there.
“Unless we support the efforts of the Bangladesh government to provide immediate aid to the half million people who have arrived over the past month, many of the most vulnerable — women, children and the elderly — will die,” said William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, which is coordinating the aid effort.
“They will be the victims of neglect.” About 509,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since attacks by Rohingya militants in August triggered a sweeping Myanmar military offensive that the United Nations has branded ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing. It says its forces are fighting insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) who claimed responsibility for attacks on about 30 police posts and an army camp on August 25.
The agencies’ plan for help over the next six months factors in the possibility of another 91,000 refugees arriving, as the influx continues, Robert Watkins, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said in a statement.
“The plan targets 1.2 million people, including all Rohingya refugees, and 300,000 Bangladeshi host communities over the next six months,” Watkins said.
Half a million people need food while 100,000 emergency shelters are required. More than half the refugees are children, while 24,000 pregnant women need maternity care, the agencies said.
UN appeals for funds to help with humanitarian crises are generally significantly under-funded.
The Rohingya are regarded as illegal immigrants in Myanmar and most are stateless.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism for not doing more to stop the violence, although she has no power over the security forces under a military-drafted constitution.
She has condemned rights abuses and said Myanmar was ready to start a process agreed with Bangladesh in 1993 under which anyone verified as a refugee would be accepted back.
But many Rohingya are pessimistic about their chances of going home, partly because few have official papers confirming their residency.
Most are also wary about returning without an assurance of citizenship, which they fear could leave them vulnerable to the persecution and discrimination they have endured for years.The UN committees for women’s and children’s rights called on Myanmar to immediately stop violence in Rakhine. — Reuters