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Rohingya crisis: Over $400 million needed for aid response

October 4, 2017

Half a million Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh since the end of August. The International Organization for Migration says Bangladesh needs support to help the new arrivals.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
Image: picture-alliance/Zumapress/S. K. Das

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday that the international community would need to give $434 million (€360 million) in humanitarian aid to help up to 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh over the next six months.

The IOM has been coordinating aid agencies' response to the arrival of around 500,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled neighboring Myanmar since ethnic violence erupted there on August 25, joining around 300,000 who had already fled.

Bangladesh's government has struggled to absorb the large influx. Many Rohingya face dire living conditions in the countryside or makeshift camps near the Myanmar border. An estimated 500,000 need food and 100,000 require emergency shelters.

William Lacy Swing, head of the IOM.
William Lacy Swing, head of the IOM, said many Rohingya women and children could die if aid agencies do not get more funding.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/G. Fische

"Unless we support the efforts of the Bangladesh government to provide immediate aid to the half million people who have arrived over the past month, many of the most vulnerable — women, children and the elderly — will die," said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

The $434 million requested for all aid agencies includes an IOM request for nearly $120 million for the organization's own humanitarian response plan.

The organization said the combined effort aims to provide relief for the more than 800,000 refugees in Bangladesh and a further 400,000 who could flee Myanmar until February 2018.

Read more: Rohingya people in Myanmar: what you need to know

Escaping terror in Myanmar

Allegations of Buddhist violence against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state are nothing new. The current mass exodus picked up pace when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group, attacked 30 Myanmar police and army outposts in the country's eastern Rakhine state on August 25.

The attacks sparked a crackdown by Myanmar security forces that engulfed Rakhine in ethnic violence. Hundreds of Rohingya have died in the fighting while thousands of homes and entire Rohingya towns have been burnt down.

Person protests against Myanmar leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been heavily criticized for failing to stop the violence.Image: FARS/H. Velayati

Authorities say they are only targeting ARSA militants, but the UN has accused Myanmar's government of actions bearing the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.

Foreign leaders and aid groups have strongly criticized Myanmar leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to do more to stop the violence, even for appearing to condone or defend it at times. The council of Oxford in the UK, where Suu Kyi studied as an undergraduate, on Wednesday stripped her of the Freedom of the City of Oxford, granted to her in 1997.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Its leaders regard the group as illegal immigrants and refuse to grant them Myanmar citizenship.

amp/msh (dpa, Reuters)