Monsoon plight on the horizon
12:00 AM, April 29, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:55 AM, April 29, 2018

Shield Rohingyas from monsoon

IOM appeals for urgent aid to help refugee camps deal with floods, landslides

The United Nations has said that the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees hang in the balance as they face 'life threatening' hazards due to the monsoon and cyclone seasons, which threaten to destroy their makeshift camps in Bangladesh.

The United Nations migration agency -- the International Organization for Migration (IOM) -- appealed in a statement, released on Friday, for urgent financial aid to prepare life-saving measures against floods and landslides in the makeshift camps in Cox's Bazar.

Without new funding, tens of thousands of people in the camps, fleeing violence in Myanmar since August 2017, will be at risk, the IOM said.

"We cannot wait for funding to come in after the emergency is over and possibly preventable tragedies have occurred," John McCue, IOM's senior operations coordinator in the district, said in the statement. "We need to be able to act now if lives are to be saved."

Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric updated the situation in Cox's Bazar as the Security Council members are making their visit. “As you know, the overall population of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is currently estimated to be over 1 million. New refugees are still arriving, with some 8,000 new arrivals since January 2018,” he said in a press conference in New York on Friday. 

Stéphane said the joint response plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis, launched in mid‑March, is only 9 per cent funded till date. It requests $951 million until December 2018 to help respond to the needs of some 1.3 million people, including both Rohingya refugees and vulnerable members of the host community.

Of that, the $182 million allocated to provide Cox's Bazar with assistance through December is facing a shortfall of almost $151 million.

The IOM's statement said without aid numerous refugees in Cox's Bazar would have to remain in these hazardous locations and hundreds of thousands of others would also be at risk if roads become impassible, blocking access to aid supplies and medical services.

Of some one million Rohingya refugees currently living under tarpaulins, on steep, sandy slopes denuded of vegetation, at least 120,000 have been identified as being at high risk due to floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain.

“Of these, 25,000 have been identified as being at highest risk from landslides. But without aid, many will have to remain in their current hazardous locations,” the statement said.

"Tarp stocks are also rapidly running out and the IOM, which oversees shelter distribution, reports that by mid-May supplies will fall below critical levels," McCue said and added that without more funding, new shelters or replacements would not be available to those who lost homes during storms.

He also pointed out that other risks include safe water supply systems, which, if collapsed, could put hundreds of thousands of refugees at risk of waterborne diseases.

Aid workers on the ground are working to improve shelters, secure key access roads and have emergency response services ready should     the worst happen, "but the harsh truth is that we cannot keep doing that if we do not have the funds," McCue said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch (HRW), ahead of the UN Security Council delegation's visit to Myanmar from Monday, called for the Rohingya crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, told reporters in Yangon on Friday that the Security Council should issue a resolution to refer Myanmar to the ICC or else no one will be held accountable.

"The lack of a UN Security Council resolution has left the Myanmar government convinced that it has literally gotten away with mass murder," he said and also called for targeted sanctions on perpetrators and an arms embargo.

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