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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Myanmar and Bangladesh

UNHCR Fundraising Reports, 1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Conduct community-based assistance and monitoring programmes in areas hosting returnees in northern Rakhine State (Myanmar) to support returnee reintegration; assist in the voluntary repatriation of refugees who wish to return to Myanmar; provide shelter, water, sanitation, health care and informal education for refugees in camps; and promote solutions for the refugees remaining in camps in Bangladesh.

Who we help

Some 230,000 refugees who have been repatriated from Bangladesh since September 1992, as well as local residents of communities hosting these returnees; and some 21,000 refugees from the Rakhine State who are accommodated in two refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Our requirements

US$ 19,651,486

Our offices

Myanmar: Yangon, Maungdaw.

Bangladesh: Dhaka, Cox's Bazar

Our partners

Myanmar: Department of Immigration and National Registration, Ministry of Immigration and Population (IND), WFP, FAO, UNOPS, Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS), Bridge Asia Japan (BAJ), Myanmar Maternal Child Welfare Association (MMCWA), Groupe de Recherche et d'Echange Technique (GRET), Community and Family Support International (CFSI), Action Contre la Faim (ACF).

Bangladesh: Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MDMR), CONCERN Bangladesh, Médecins sans Frontières Holland (MSF-H).


Some 250,000 Muslim residents of the Rakhine State in Myanmar fled to Bangladesh during 1991 and 1992 due to a number of political, social, and economic factors. Following discussions between the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, a bilateral repatriation programme began in September 1992. In April 1994, UNHCR established an operational presence in Myanmar to assist in the voluntary return of refugees; by April 1997, some 230,000 refugees had been repatriated.

Because the Government of Myanmar enforced a 15 August 1997 deadline for the completion of the repatriation process, voluntary repatriation of refugees was suspended in mid-1997. Repatriation was also hindered by militant refugees in the camps in Bangladesh who intimidated others to prevent them from returning to Myanmar. The Government of Myanmar has approved a further list of 7,000 refugees who wish to return from Bangladesh, but no schedule has been set for the resumption of voluntary repatriation. As a result, UNHCR will not be able to phase out its assistance programme for refugees in Bangladesh in 1998.


In Bangladesh

UNHCR's primary objective in Bangladesh is to promote solutions for the refugee population of 21,000 persons remaining in two camps. In addition to supporting the voluntary repatriation of those willing and able to return to Myanmar, UNHCR explores other solutions with the Bangladesh authorities, including temporary residence and self-reliance for the remaining refugees. Until such durable solutions are in place, UNHCR will continue to provide international protection and some care and maintenance assistance for refugees in the camps.

In Myanmar

In Myanmar, UNHCR supports community-based assistance and monitoring programmes in areas hosting returnees in northern Rakhine State. The agency is also working to help design and implement a United Nations integrated development plan for the region which will allow for the withdrawal of UNHCR assistance at the end of the year 2000.


Muslims in the northern Rakhine State area are considered to be foreign residents and do not enjoy full citizenship rights. As a result, their movements are restricted and they are denied professional and educational opportunities. UNHCR monitors returnees and the Muslim population, in general, in this area. UNHCR staff travel freely throughout the area and have unrestricted access to all returnees, including those in detention. Where necessary, UNHCR intervenes in individual cases; and intervention with the authorities often results in corrective action. The Office encourages the authorities to improve the legal status of returnees and the local Muslim population and works to lift restrictions on their movement, ease trade, and allow for the employment of Muslims in areas such as health and education which are normally reserved for Myanmar citizens. The agency also encourages the Government to grant citizenship to this population. The practice of compulsory labour remains an issue of grave concern. UNHCR works to persuade the Government to end the practice since it violates basic human rights and is a cause of refugee outflows. These efforts have resulted in some improvements in Rakhine State, but cases of arbitrary demands for donations, re-location and land confiscation are still reported.

In Bangladesh, UNHCR will continue to monitor and ensure the voluntary nature of return, and provide assistance to refugees in camps. UNHCR will promote the establishment of a refugee status determination mechanism along the Bangladesh border with Myanmar to ensure that those with a well-founded fear of persecution will be assured protection in Bangladesh.

Assistance in Myanmar

The assistance programme in Myanmar supports reintegration by reinforcing communities hosting returnees. Water supply, sanitation and community services will be upgraded. Health services will be improved by training medical staff, providing medical equipment, improving immunization services and supporting regional and national health care services. Education assistance will also be provided. Training and income-generating opportunities will be offered to extremely vulnerable individuals, female-headed households and landless families dependent on casual labour. Economic self-sufficiency will be fostered by increasing self-employment opportunities and access to financial resources for micro-businesses.

In 1999, UNHCR will promote food security for extremely poor families through food-for-work activities, assistance to particularly vulnerable families, supplementary feeding for school girls, and food-for-training programmes. Special efforts will be made to increase the acreage used for rice production, encourage double cropping and support livestock development and agro-forestry. High-yielding seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides will be provided, temporary dams will be constructed and technical assistance and agricultural equipment will be offered. Financial mechanisms, such as investment funds and micro-credit schemes, will be set up to sustain increased agricultural activities.

Community and social services will promote literacy for women and girls and develop the traditional skills of rural Muslim women.

Assistance in Bangladesh

The assistance provided supports repatriation, ensures basic care and maintenance and fosters self-reliance. Before repatriation, each refugee is provided with a household kit containing basic items and a food ration to enable them to start independent lives in Myanmar. Once in Myanmar, they will receive a repatriation grant, a transportation grant, and an allowance for housing repair and building materials in addition to two months' worth of food rations.

To help prevent environmental degradation, UNHCR will continue to provide refugee families with compressed rice husk and kerosene for cooking fuel through 1999. Therapeutic and Supplementary Feeding Programmes will also continue. Counselling activities will focus on identifying and providing support to vulnerable groups, particularly female-headed households, children, the elderly, and the seriously or chronically ill. Nearly all refugee shelters will have to be extensively repaired during 1999, as basic shelter maintenance and repair work was postponed because of a breakdown of law and order in the camps during 1998.

UNHCR will support non-formal primary education, particularly for refugee girls and will provide school supplies to refugee students and teaching kits to refugee teachers. It is anticipated that refugees will be allowed to register in government and non-government schools in the area at the start of the academic year in July 1999. Funds will also be made available for local initiatives which benefit both refugees and local residents in areas in which refugees have resided for several years.


In Bangladesh, the programme is implemented under the joint supervision of UNHCR and the Government of Bangladesh. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MDMR) is UNHCR's main implementing partner and coordinates with the relevant technical ministries and departments of the Government. CONCERN Bangladesh and Médecins sans Frontières Holland (MSF-H) are responsible for sanitation and health/nutrition for women and children.

In Myanmar, UNHCR cooperates with the Ministry of Immigration and Population. Its Department of Immigration and National Registration (IND) provides logistical support to the operation. Other implementing partners include: Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS), for assistance to extremely vulnerable individuals; World Food Programme (WFP), for relief and food-for-work projects; Bridge Asia Japan (BAJ), for maintenance services to vehicles, boats, generators and facilities, skills training and community-based construction training programmes; Myanmar Maternal Child Welfare Association (MMCWA), for reproductive health and family planning programmes; Groupe de Recherche et d'Echange Technique (GRET), for assistance with crop production, livestock and agro-forestry; the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for agriculture and natural resources management; Community and Family Support International (CFSI), for assistance activities in the area of community services, including the continuation and expansion of UNHCR-Magsaysay centres for women; UNOPS, for projects in the health, education and income-generation sectors, and Action contre la faim (ACF), for assistance in water and sanitation services and food security.

Budget US$

The budget includes costs in Myanmar, Bangladesh and at Headquarters.

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support275,036
Shelter/Other Infrastructures115,864
Community Services492,720
Crop Production1,590,462
Livestock/Animal Husbandry30,000
Legal Assistance/Protection83,475
Agency Operational Support3,607,433
Programme Delivery Costs*3,418,164
Administrative Support Costs1,429,106

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.




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Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

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