Rohingya Crisis: Int'l response underfunded
A senior UN official has warned that the international response to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh is severely underfunded and sought more funds to cope with the challenges.
“We are entering into the cyclone season which could be potentially devastating in the camps. This only adds to the enormous sense of uncertainty the refugees face about their future,” said Annika Sandlund, acting senior coordinator for the Rohingya refugee response and head of the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG).
She made the comments as a high-level delegation of ambassadors and senior
representatives of Australia, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US paid a two-day visit to the refugee camps on October 8-9 to gain firsthand knowledge of the critical issues faced by nearly one million Rohingyas.
“It is crucial that we advocate at the highest level to the international community. The humanitarian response has been successful but remains severely underfunded,” she said.
During the visit, the foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka met local authorities, heads of UN agencies and national and international NGOs working on the response.
Only 39 percent of the response is funded, an additional $579 million is required to meet the urgent needs of the Rohingya refugees and the local host communities until the end of the year, said an ISCG press release yesterday.
There are also concerns that funding for critical programmes would end in February next year, putting lifesaving services at risk. Without this critical funding, essential services might be pared back, compromising the health and wellbeing of this vulnerable population, 80 percent of whom are women and children, it added.
The refugees are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance with 860,000 of them dependent on food aid each month. The food security sector still requires $66 million to support them through to March 2019.
The camps remain extremely congested, making it difficult to relocate families currently living in landslide and flood risk areas. Most of the shelters have been hastily built on undulating and sandy terrain, which is susceptible to landslide and flooding. Congestion also leads to protection, health water and sanitation concerns.
Access to accredited education is a huge gap. Approximately 55 percent of pre-primary and primary learners and 98 percent of adolescent still lack access to quality education.
“As the world faces protracted crises in many regions, the Rohingya refugees must remain at the forefront for the international community,” Sandlund said.
“We need to ensure that protection remains key to this response and that we have the resources available to focus on extremely vulnerable individuals, such as survivors of gender-based violence, the elderly and the chronically ill.”
The UN officials say there is in addition an urgent need to support the host community, who were among the first responders to the crisis by opening their homes to the refugees and sharing what little resources they have.
Long-term support is required to assist the Bangladesh government to achieve a sustainable and beneficial use of resources for the refugees and the host community population, the UN and aid agencies observe.
A safe, voluntary and dignified return of the refugees to Myanmar should also be urgently pursued.