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Myanmar: Humanitarian needs increase as Rohingya flee into Bangladesh

12 Sep 2017


Violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 25 August. The extent and implications of the violence remain uncertain as the UN does not have access. The humanitarian response to the Rohingya influx in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, is being coordinated by the Inter-Sector Coordination Group, which is led by the International Organization for Migration.

Rohingya refugees live in overcrowded makeshift sites in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: UNHCR/Saiful Huq Omi

Since 25 August, an estimated 370,000 Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have crossed the border into Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. The numbers are based on an inter agency assessment and consolidated field reports of the agencies working in Cox’s Bazar. Because the situation is so fluid, verified numbers are not available.

Many of the new arrivals are staying in makeshift settlements or among local Bangladeshi host communities. Existing basic services are now strained, and aid agencies are struggling to cope with the rising needs.

The spontaneous settlements in Cox’s Bazar require proper planning to ensure basic shelter, safety and hygiene standards. The Bangladesh Government has requested the UN to help establish a camp; UNHCR says its two camps have reached saturation point.

Through the Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), humanitarian partners have prepared a Preliminary Response Plan, requesting US$77 million from August to December. The funds will provide basic life-saving assistance to new arrivals in settlements, camps and host communities; improve the conditions in and the management of existing and new settlements; and promote the safety and dignity of new arrivals, and respect for their individual rights.

People arriving are in urgent need of life-saving assistance , including food, water and sanitation, health and protection. Photo: Saikat Biswas/UN Migration Agency

On 12 September, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) begun a major airlift of 91 metric tons of emergency aid, including shelter materials, blankets and sleeping mats, to immediately help some 25,000 refugees. The World Food Programme (WFP) scaled up food distribution; more than 68,800 people received high-energy biscuits on arrival in Cox’s Bazar. More than 11,800 households (nearly 60,000 people) have so far received rice.

About 3,000 pregnant and lactating women and children under age 5 have received a high-nutrient porridge, and about 77,600 people have benefited from warm meals through the NGO Action Contre la Faim’s community kitchens, which feed about 5,300 people per day.

Tracking and verifying the number of arrivals has been difficult due to movement from transit areas to spontaneous settlements. However, the Bangladesh Government is establishing a biometric registration system to facilitate the process.

Within Myanmar, the UN remains concerned about reports of continued violence, fires and displacement of tens of thousands of people in Rathedaung township. Most UN and INGO humanitarian activities across northern Rakhine remain suspended or severely interrupted, but some assistance is being delivered by the Myanmar Government and through the Red Cross Movement.

On 7 September, the UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, announced the release of $7 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund for the Rohingya crisis response in Bangladesh. He also reiterated the need for humanitarian access in Myanmar: “As we help those fleeing across the border, I appeal for urgent unhindered access to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to all those in need,” he said.