Foreign donations rise riding on Rohingyas | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 25, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 25, 2018

Foreign donations rise riding on Rohingyas

Inflow of foreign donations witnessed a 15.66 percent year-on-year rise to $827.02 million in 2017-18, the highest for Bangladesh in a year.

Analysts attributed the growth to the rising humanitarian assistance that came for the Rohingyas.

The fund, received by different non-governmental organisations (NGOs) through Bangladesh Bank upon getting clearance from the NGO Affairs Bureau, will be used for 1,625 projects -- the highest approved by the bureau in a single year.

The projects, either implemented in 2017-18 or undergoing implementation, were scheduled to get another $50.84 million, as committed by the donors.

The highest amount to be committed was $939.29 million in 2011-12, although $579.64 million came through in the end.

The donation hit its previous record—$749.86 million—in 2014-15, which declined to $650.55 million in 2015-16 and reached $715.05 million the following fiscal.

Senior bureau officials said about $130 million came for the refugees who took shelter in Cox's Bazar since August last year after fleeing violence in their homeland Myanmar.

As of April, the government registered about 10.38 lakh Rohingyas in the southern districts.

“The amount was not unexpected as the donors are supporting us in providing assistance to the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds,” KM Abdus Salam, the bureau's director general, told The Daily Star.

The figure might increase in the current fiscal year as issues involving the Rohingya had not been resolved, Salam added.

There are 2,625 registered NGOs in the country, 259 of which are international ones. According to the bureau, about 1,600 NGOs are now in operation.

Insiders say the amount of donation received by the NGOs has been waning in the past couple of years, as the government took punitive measures against some for non-compliance to regulations while strengthening monitoring and passing an act on the issue.

The National Board of Revenue recently took steps over compliance after discovering that more than half of the NGOs do not have tax files. Some NGOs were also banned from providing humanitarian assistance to Rohingyas because of non-compliance issues, such as not properly getting registered with the bureau.

Salam said the latest increase in donation inflow was in part a result of the efforts on ensuring compliance.

He mentioned of countries like Kuwait and some Islamic organisations in the UK and Australia which wanted to provide funds to proper authorities and disbursement under strict monitoring.

“That might also be a cause for the decline in the past,” said Salam.

The director general also reasoned the decrease to tremendous improvements in socio-economic conditions, prompting donors to shift their focus and provide funds only for emergency disaster management such as that for floods.

Brac, the world's top NGO, said 2017-18 has seen a rising inflow of donations into Bangladesh mainly due to the influx of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals in Cox's Bazar.

“Leading global donors stepped in to support Bangladesh to respond to the humanitarian crisis,” said Moutushi Kabir, director for communication and outreach at Brac.

As the biggest on-the-ground responder to the crisis, Brac also initially mobilised its own funds to meet emergency needs after the influx began, she said.

Now they are working closely with the government, local and international NGOs and other stakeholders through an Inter Sector Coordination Group, she added.

Although the two initial “recovery” phases were over, a third “rehabilitation and repatriation” phase required a significant amount of resource to meet the needs of both the Rohingya and the host community of the tourist district, said Kabir.

Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education, a network of over 1,000 NGOs and basic educator groups, said the fund flow for general development activities has declined over the years although some emergency funds have come in.

“Rohingya was the biggest issue for receiving grants last fiscal year. Apart from that, some NGOs also got funds for early child marriage prevention and last year's flood management,” said Choudhury, a former adviser to a caretaker government.

She said Bangladesh improved a lot in different socio-economic indicators, causing donors to reconsider funding issues, which was also a matter of pride for the country.

Both Kabir and Choudhury said the global socioeconomic situation has been going through a transition in recent years and for that there has been a shift in the flow of global donations towards countries ravaged by conflict and war.

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