THE UNITED NATIONS migration agency has called upon the international community to provide more support for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma (Myanmar) in the “arc of misery” between Rakhine State and Bangladesh.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) warned on Thursday that “thousands will suffer” if there isn’t greater support for food, shelter and healthcare for an estimated 800,000 refugees now residing in Bangladesh.
“The world has rarely witnessed a refugee crisis of such speed, with more than half a million crossing into Bangladesh in just over a month,” said the IOM director-general William Lacy Swing after a visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Wednesday.
As of Thursday, at least 589,000 new arrivals from Rakhine State have been recorded in Bangladesh since Aug 25, spurred by “clearing operations” conducted by Burma’s Tatmadaw army.
“The arc of misery that exists between Northern Rakhine state and Cox’s Bazar is deeply upsetting – too many people suffering desperately with too little support,” said Swing.
In a report released on Friday, Unicef said that 61 percent of the refugees are children – a shocking proportion of whom are suffering from malnutrition.
“This crisis is stealing their childhoods. We must not let it steal their futures at the same time. Or the region will pay the price for many years to come,” said the agency’s executive director Anthony Lake.
Unicef’s report describes a dire situation of children in refugee camps in Bangladesh, forced to assist their families to find food, build shelter and collect water in squalid conditions. Many have witnessed murders and rapes in Burma.
There are at least 882 unaccompanied or separated children in the camps, it said.
Swing, of IOM, said “I saw women carrying small babies, only a few days old, sometimes born while their young mothers were fleeing deadly violence in torrential rains. I saw young children, who had lost not just their parents, but any remnants of hope.”
Earlier in October, Unicef launched a campaign to raise US$76.1 million for its emergency humanitarian response to the Rohingya crisis. Its report on Friday said that only seven percent of the appeal has been funded to date. Moreover, it needs US$13 million for operations to support children within Burma.
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) October 20, 2017
The crisis shows no sign of abating. Some 15,000 people fled into Bangladesh on Oct 16 alone, according to the UN refugee agency.
Renewed violence broke out in the Rakhine in late August after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked police and military outposts. The Tatmadaw has now been accused of widespread arson, extrajudicial killings and rape.
UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, who has previously described the situation as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, said in an interview on Thursday that “our team continues to receive accounts of indiscriminate shootings, summary executions, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearances, rape and other forms of sexual violence and torture.”
Al-Hussein renewed calls for the Burmese government to allow his office to conduct an investigation into alleged human rights abuses.
“Humanitarian aid alone is not a solution. The root causes of this crisis are in Myanmar and there can be no lasting peace in Rakhine without inclusive development,” Swing said.