Rohingya refugees have been fleeing violence in Myanmar at a staggering rate – and the numbers keep growing. They walk for days through jungles and mountains, or brave dangerous sea voyages across the Bay of Bengal. They arrive exhausted, hungry and sick – in need of international protection and humanitarian assistance.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. The latest exodus began on 25 August 2017, when violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The vast majority of Rohingya refugees reaching Bangladesh are women and children, including newborn babies. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection. They have nothing and need everything.
New spontaneous settlements have sprouted overnight, raising concerns over the lack of adequate shelter, water and sanitation. Infrastructure and services are overstretched. Local villages have also taken in the new arrivals, straining their already limited resources.
The situation remains precarious as refugees continue to arrive every day. Many refugees tell horrific stories of extreme violence, several showing wounds and trauma inflicted before their flight. As more refugees arrive every day there is an acute need for emergency shelters, blankets and other forms of aid. To lessen the risk of waterborne and airborne diseases, refugees and host communities urgently need more clean water, health care and other supplies. Pregnant women, young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable.
What is UNHCR doing to help?
This is the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world today. We are working with the Bangladesh government and partners to respond to the massive humanitarian needs.
Since August 25, UNHCR has airlifted 1,500 metric tons of emergency life-saving aid to Bangladesh – including blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, family tents, plastic rolls, kitchen sets, jerry cans and buckets collectively valued at US$7.8 million – to assist 250,000 refugees. More aid is being moved by sea.
Together with our partners, we are also helping the government to develop Kutupalong Extension, a new site near Kutupalong refugee camp. This includes funding a road to facilitate construction and refugee access, supporting site planning, building latrines and wells, improving the water and sanitation facilities and distributing shelter materials.
As a measure against health problems such as acute watery diarrhoea, we are in the process of constructing a total of 8,000 latrines for the refugees. Already, UNHCR and partners have installed nearly 500 latrines, 51 shallow tube wells and 8 deep tube wells to ensure access to drinkable water.
Together with the Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, we are conducting family counting in the Kutupalong and Balukhali extension sites. The data collected on family profiles and vulnerabilities will help to improve aid delivery and plan for solutions in the future.
Led by UNHCR, the protection group is scaling up its engagement in all refugee settlements. The group is working on a referral system and safe spaces for victims of gender-based violence. It is also enhancing efforts to identify and refer children at risk for the appropriate support.
Our teams remain on full alert amid reports of a potential new influx of refugees by land and sea. UNHCR and its partners are supporting the government in pre-positioning and delivering assistance for potential fresh arrivals.
UNHCR continues to boost its presence in the field through the deployment of relief specialists in different sectors. We now have 182 emergency staff in Bangladesh, including 84 national colleagues. We will continue to boost our presence and operations as to match the scale and complexity of this still fluid and evolving refugee crisis.
On 16 March 2018, a Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis was launched calling for USD 951 million to continue delivering lifesaving assistance from March-December 2018. UNHCR is appealing for USD 238.8 million as part of its Supplementary Appeal for 2018 in order to continue to respond to the needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees, who are now preparing to face a harsh monsoon season.