Bangladesh: UNHCR emergency airlift lands in Dhaka as Rakhine crisis deepens

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A newly arrived Rohingya refugees rests on his belongings on the side of the road near the Kutupalong informal settlement in Kutupalong, Bangladesh on Sept. 10th, 2017.  © UNHCR/Adam Dean

A major UNHCR airlift with emergency relief supplies for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is today under way, with the first flight having landed in Dhaka just before 04:30 this morning.

A UNHCR-chartered Boeing 777 flew in with 91 metric tonnes of aid, including much needed shelter materials, jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats and other essential items from UNHCR’s global stockpile in Dubai. The cargo has been loaded onto trucks which will bring the aid to the refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar in south-eastern Bangladesh.

A second aid flight, donated to UNHCR by United Arab Emirates (UAE) is scheduled to land at 14:15 this afternoon local time, bringing in some 1,700 family tents. The two emergency flights are meant to meet the immediate aid needs of some 25,000 refugees. Further flights are being planned, ultimately delivering emergency aid for some 120,000 refugees in total.

We now estimate that 370,000 stateless Rohingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since 25 August. The increase in the estimated total is a result of more interagency assessment teams being able to reach more villages, hamlets and pockets where refugees have gathered.

Rohingya refugees continue to arrive at Kutupalong and Nayapara camps, where UNHCR operates. With more than 70,000 refugees now in both camps, the population has more than doubled since 25 August. Both sites are beyond saturation point. Some refugees who have been living in these camps are hosting up to 15 newly-arrived families in their small huts, yet new arrivals are still spilling onto the walkways under plastic sheets. We have opened up public buildings and set up large tents to accommodate the new arrivals.

Many of the new refugees are staying in the makeshift settlements or among local Bangladeshi host communities who generously share whatever resources they have. These spontaneous sites require proper planning to ensure basic shelter, safety and hygiene standards.

Meanwhile, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, George Okoth-Obbo, is in Bangladesh this week. In Cox’s Bazar, the head of UNHCR operations will meet with Rohingya refugee families to better understand their needs and review UNHCR’s response.

While In Dhaka, he will meet with the Bangladeshi authorities to underline UNHCR's readiness to significantly ramp up its response and provide support to the government in addressing the humanitarian needs and ensuring the protection of refugees.

 

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