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IOM: Rohingyas facing triple threat, need urgent funding

  • Published at 08:33 pm July 18th, 2018
2018-06-11_MYANMAR-ROHINGYA-FISHING
A Rohingya refugee is seen in Balukhali refugee camp at dawn near Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, March 28, 2018 Reuters

World must remain focused on Rohingya crisis, says the United Nations

William Lacy Swing, the head of the UN migration agency, has said that almost a million Rohingya people living in Bangladesh are facing a triple threat of extreme weather, funding shortfalls, and uncertainty about their future.

The director general of International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was crucial for the world to remain focused on the crisis, as a "failure to do so would have tragic outcomes for nearly a million Rohingya refugees sheltering in Bangladesh," reports UNB.

He made the remarks after reviewing progress by IOM and its partners in managing the world's largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, following discussions with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka and an earlier meeting on Thursday with Myanmar's de facto leader and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Swing praised the great hospitality of the local community and the Bangladesh government as a whole in supporting the refugees, in what is now one of the world's largest humanitarian responses.

He also said the world must recognize the hugely generous support the government and host community in Cox's Bazar offered these refugees who arrived in such desperate conditions.

The Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar were in danger of becoming the “wretched of the earth, homeless and without a future," he said in a statement issued by the IOM, adding: "The world must rally to support them."

According to the IOM, the prime minister said: "The wellbeing of the Rohingyas is our concern while they are here."

Hasina also underscored the enormity of the impact that so many refugees are having on the local population and the need for global solidarity to find a solution to their plight and humanitarian aid to support them and the surrounding host communities.

IOM chief Swing previously visited Cox's Bazar in October 2017, less than three months into a violent crisis which sent more than 700,000 people fleeing over the border from Myanmar’s Rakhine state since late August.

The Rohingyas now live in desperately cramped conditions on bare sandy slopes, with only bamboo and tarpaulin shelters to protect them from the elements, says the IOM. All this in an area that suffers two cyclone seasons every year and some of the heaviest monsoon conditions in the world.

Swing noted the major improvements to the camps' management and infrastructure carried out by IOM and an entire spectrum of other UN agencies, NGOs as well as other organizations and the government, including access ways, bridges, drainage, sanitation, and improved shelters.

However, as monsoon rains turned many hillsides to mud, Swing warned that with just one quarter of joint funding appeal for the entire response met so far, much of the progress made in recent months was at serious risk of collapsing.

That, he said, would create yet another life-threatening disaster for the Rohingya community.

Swing, who met young mothers from the refugee and local Bangladeshi host community who had recently given birth at an IOM medical facility in the heart of the sprawling mega-camp, stressed the vital role that such health services played for people in Cox's Bazar – refugee or local residents.

"Everyone must recognize, in addition to the refugees' needs, the tremendous impact this crisis is having on the host community," he said.

IOM has been working in Cox's Bazar providing medical care to the local community long before the crisis which began last August, he noted.

"All mothers - refugees and locals - should have access to safe, hygienic facilities to give birth and it's profoundly worrying that funding shortages are now threatening these crucial maternity services which are making such differences to the lives of women and babies from all backgrounds," he said.

Meanwhile, Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, at a regular briefing at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday said Swing stressed that it was crucial for the world to remain focused on the crisis.

He warned that with monsoon rains turning many hillsides to mud and just one quarter of joint funding appeal for the entire response met so far, much of the progress made in recent months was at serious risk of collapsing.

The IOM chief left Dhaka Monday night, wrapping up his three-day visit.

According to the agency, the number of people in need in Cox's Bazar is now 1.3 million with 706,364 new Rohingyas who arrived since August 25 last year.