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 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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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. UNHCR delivers life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, helps safeguard fundamental human rights, and develops solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. UNHCR also works to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality. UNHCR’s dedicated teams are on the ground in some 128 countries across the world, working in partnership with governments, NGOs, the private sector, community groups, host communities as well as refugees.