When the Rohingyas started pouring into Bangladesh with horrific stories of atrocities committed by the Myanmar military, people of Ukhia and Teknaf welcomed them with dry food and water.
As the exodus sparked a never-seen-before humanitarian disaster in no time, people from other parts of Bangladesh rushed to Cox's Bazar with cash, food and other basic necessities for the refugees.
Terming it the world's fastest growing refugee crisis, some countries and international organisations also came up with food aid for the persecuted population.
Initially, there was complete chaos but the administration put in herculean efforts and managed to bring the situation in order.
Now things have taken a different turn. One year has gone by and the return of the Rohingyas still remains elusive while locals outnumbered by Rohingyas are apparently annoyed with the presence of the refugees.
Besides, the humanitarian response from the global community is decreasing and availability of funds to ensure smooth supply of basic needs for Rohingyas now appears as one of the major challenges.
As of August 1, only around one-third of the $951 million sought by the UN agencies has been available, according to UNHCR. The appeal for funds were made to meet the urgent needs of about 900,000 Rohingya refugees and another 330,000 vulnerable people in the host community in Cox's Bazar for 10 months until December this year.
“This under-funding impacts the ability of the humanitarian community to support the government's response to this crisis, including in critical areas such as food security, health, nutrition, shelter and protection,” UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo told The Daily Star recently.
The current level of under-funding, despite the attention the crisis has received, underscores the need for more sustainable approaches in providing assistance and safety to the Rohingya refugees and the community that have welcomed them, she said.
“This includes empowering refugees to no longer rely exclusively on humanitarian aid, taking steps to de-congest refugee settlements and ensuring that children and youths have access to quality education.”
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammed Abul Kalam said many development projects have already been taken up on emergency basis.
"Now we need to build sustainable infrastructure, ensure proper food supply, health services, education and so on as their repatriation remain uncertain.
“To meet those demands, fund is very important. Although we are yet to get satisfactory response from the donor agencies, we hope that they will come forward with a big heart to mitigate the problems.”
The Joint Response Plan (JRP), for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, remains only 34 percent funded, with some $632 million still required to meet the urgent and priority needs of the Rohingyas and affected host communities up to the end of the year, reads a press release of Office of the RRRC and Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG).
'LIVES WILL ONCE AGAIN BE AT RISK'
UN officials said on Friday that significant progress has been made in protecting hundreds of thousands Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in the 12 months since they fled violence in Myanmar, but lives “will once again be at risk” if funding is not urgently secured.
Peter Salama, deputy director-general of Emergency Preparedness and Response for the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), told journalists in Geneva that “thousands of lives” had been saved so far, thanks to the joint efforts of the Bangladesh government, WHO and partners.
Deadly disease outbreaks have also been held at bay in Cox's Bazar despite “all the conditions being in place for a massive epidemic”, he said, noting that outbreaks of measles, diphtheria, polio, cholera and rubella have been contained thanks to preventive inoculation campaigns that have required four million doses of vaccine.
“We need to sustain the vigilance for early warnings of infectious diseases,” Salama said. “That is still a major risk due to the environmental situation, the poor sanitation, the massive overcrowding, the way these people are being housed and we need to maintain our ability to scale-up outbreak response as required.”
His call to scale up help was echoed in Geneva by IOM, writes UN News.
“The achievements of the past year have been remarkable,” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM's chief of mission in Bangladesh.
“This was the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world and the challenges have been immense. Countless lives have been saved thanks to the generosity of the government of Bangladesh, the local community and donors, and the hard work of all those involved in the humanitarian response. But we now face the very real threat that if more funding is not urgently secured, lives will once again be at risk.”