International support is needed to assist the government of Myanmar to address the root causes of the crisis, said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic
The United Nations refugee agency has urged the international community to step up its support for the stateless Rohingyas in Bangladesh and to “show solidarity with their generous hosts”.
“The collective international responsibility for protecting and finding solutions for these refugees must remain a priority for all countries in the region and beyond,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said at a press briefing in the agency’s Geneva headquarters on Friday.
Since the crisis began in August last year, the agency says more than 720,000 people have found shelter and safety in Cox’s Bazar after fleeing violence and systemic discrimination in their homeland of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
According to the Bangladesh government, they have joined nearly 400,000 Rohingya refugees who had already taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar during previous waves of displacement.
“At the onset of the (latest) emergency, UNHCR immediately deployed additional staff to Bangladesh and airlifted more than 1,500 metric tons of aid and relief items,” Mahecic said.
“Over the past year, our teams have been working around the clock in support of Bangladeshi authorities to ensure that the refugees are protected.”
Mahecic said the UNHCR work includes psycho-social counselling, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, family counting, and identifying and providing assistance to separated and unaccompanied children and other vulnerable refugees.
At present, the Kutupalong settlement in Cox’s Bazar shelters more than 600,000 Rohingyas, making it the largest and most densely populated refugee settlement in the world.
This brings daily challenges of delivering shelter, water and sanitation and access to basic services, as well as protection considerations, such as the safety of women and girls.
“As we take stock of what has been achieved so far, UNHCR urges renewed international engagement and support for Rohingyas and host communities in Bangladesh,” the UNHCR spokesperson said.
“(This is) in order to expand the response from day-to-day life saving operations to also addressing challenges such as education and self-reliance for the Rohingyas.”
Repairing the environmental impact of hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas in the Cox’s Bazar area also requires urgent action, including through reforestation and use of alternative fuels for cooking and heating.
Mahecic said the Joint Response Plan (JRP) launched in March 2018 appealed for $950.8 million to cover the expense of sheltering the Rohingyas until the end of the year. As of mid-August, however, the JRP was just over 33% funded.
“This is deeply worrying given that we are nearing the last four months of 2018,” Mahecic said.
“Against this backdrop, it is vital not to lose sight of the fact that the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar.
“International support is needed to assist the government of Myanmar to address the root causes of the crisis, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by late Kofi Annan.”