It is concerning to learn that out of USD 308.7 million sought from the international community for the Rohingyas for 2020, only USD 87 million or 27 percent of that has been given as of May, according to the UN Refugee Agency. And as countries around the world struggle to deal with the economic fall-out of the pandemic, there might also be shortage of funding in the future. Another reason for the likely shortage of funding may be that the activities of the non-government organisations have decreased drastically amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, over one million Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Cox's Bazar in cramped conditions with limited access to adequate hygiene and health facilities. Until June 18, a total of 42 Rohingyas have tested positive and three have succumbed to the disease. Only recently, at least 32 Rohingyas died on a drifting boat at sea while desperately trying to get to the Malaysian coast but could not find refuge there. Our coast guards rescued 396 of them who were at sea for nearly two months. It is likely that the situation of the Rohingyas will be more complicated in the coming days due to the pandemic-induced economic crisis. Experts also fear that the ongoing armed conflict in western Myanmar could be used by the Myanmar government as a pretext for not repatriating the Rohingyas.
While our government has included the Rohingya refugees in its national action plan to respond to Covid-19, the humanitarian agencies have also been working hard to respond to the situation. However, all the response plans may be interrupted due to the fund shortage which is likely to happen in the coming days.
While it is understandable that the donor countries would focus on rebuilding their own economy after the pandemic, it is also expected that they would continue to support the Rohingyas at a time when they need their assistance more than ever. Additionally, the international community should continue to exert pressure on the Myanmar government to start the repatriation process as soon as possible. It must intervene by deploying forces to stop the fighting and improve the conditions in Rakhine for the Rohingyas' safe return. The Bangladesh government has been continuing to shelter the Rohingyas for many years, but with a large portion of its own population living in poverty, it cannot continue to feed over one million Rohingyas in the refugee camps and ensure their basic rights if the international community decreases their funding.