Who are the Rohingya?
Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar in successive waves of displacement since the early 1990s.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. The latest exodus began on 25 August 2017, when violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, driving more than 723,000 to seek refuge in Bangladesh. Most arrived in the first three months of the crisis. An estimated 12,000 reached Bangladesh during the first half of 2018. The vast majority reaching Bangladesh are women and children, and more than 40 per cent are under age 12. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection. They have nothing and need everything.
- See also: Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance
Nearly all who arrived during the influx have sought shelter in and around the refugee settlements of Kutupalong and Nayapara in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Some have joined relatives there. The enormous scale of the influx is putting an immense pressure on the Bangladeshi host community and existing facilities and services.
New spontaneous settlements sprouted overnight, raising concerns over the lack of adequate shelter, water and sanitation, access to basic services, and general protection considerations such as safety for women and girls. The Kutupalong refugee settlement has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600,000 people living in an area of just 13 square kilometres, stretching infrastructure and services to their limits.
The Bangladesh government has responded generously throughout the latest crisis. Local Bangladeshi villages have also taken in the new arrivals. They spared no effort to help, straining their already limited resources.
The humanitarian response in Bangladesh remains focused on meeting the massive humanitarian needs and on mitigating the impact of the seasonal monsoon rains. However, additional international support is urgently needed to step up the assistance from purely humanitarian and day-to-day support towards addressing medium-term challenges, including resilience, education, registration, and programmes to protect the most vulnerable refugees – including children, women and persons with specific needs.
What is UNHCR doing?
Together with our partners we are working in support of the Bangladesh government to respond to the massive humanitarian needs.
In the opening days, weeks and months of the crisis, UNHCR airlifted more than 1,500 metric tons of emergency life-saving aid to Bangladesh – including blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, family tents, plastic rolls, kitchen sets, jerry cans and buckets.
Together with our partners, we are also helping the government to develop new sites that can safely accommodate refugees. This includes funding a road to facilitate construction and refugee access, supporting site planning, building latrines and wells, improving the water and sanitation facilities and distributing shelter materials.
In an effort to improve sanitation and access to drinkable water, we have built thousands of latrines and water points for the refugees, thereby mitigating the risks of health problems such as acute watery diarrhoea.
UNHCR is working to mainstream refugee protection in all refugee settlements. With its partners, it is developing a referral system and safe spaces for survivors of gender-based violence. We are also enhancing efforts to identify and refer children at risk for the appropriate support.
UNHCR has increased its presence in the field through the deployment of emergency teams and relief specialists in different sectors. We have 300 staff in Bangladesh, including 208 national colleagues. We will continue to boost our presence and operations to match the scale and complexity of this still fluid and evolving refugee crisis.
On 16 March 2018, the UN and its partners launched a Joint Response Plan (JRP) for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis calling for US$951 million to continue delivering lifesaving assistance from March to December 2018. As of early August 2018, the JRP remains just 32 per cent funded. UNHCR is appealing for US$238.8 million as part of its Supplementary Appeal for 2018 in order to continue to respond to the needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
UNHCR rushed additional aid to Bangladesh to prepare refugees and host communities for the monsoon rains, which fall between May and September, increasing the risk of floods and landslides. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have found shelter in Cox’s Bazar district – one of the wettest areas of the country. Humanitarian partners estimate that up to 200,000 Rohingya refugees could be at risk during the monsoon season. Many live on rugged, undulating terrain prone to landslides and flooding and are in urgent need of relocation.
Among them, some 41,000 refugees live in areas deemed at highest risk of landslides. By mid-August 2018, more than 24,000 of them had been relocated by UNHCR to safer areas.
UNHCR has also equipped more than 80,000 refugee families with upgraded shelter kits, which include bamboo poles, ropes, shelter-grade tarpaulins, sandbags, and tools. In addition, the Bangladesh government, supported by UNHCR and its partners, have added 32 kilometres of brick roads and footpaths, 91 kilometres of drainage pipes, and has constructed 45 kilometres of steps across the settlement. In addition, 63 kilometres of retaining walls and structures; 94 kilometres of drainage have been completed or repaired; 2,324 meters of bridges have been built. UNHCR has also strategically prepositioned 116 storage containers with emergency aid and upgraded 20 community buildings and facilities in the Bangladeshi host communities.
Why is your help needed?
The United Nations and its partner NGOs have appealed for USD 951 million to meet the urgent needs of nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees and more than 330,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis in the communities hosting them.
Over the months since the outset of the Rohingya influx, this has been the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, with tens of thousands fleeing by land and sea from Myanmar daily at the peak of the emergency. The appeal aims to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees and host communities, and support environmentally sustainable solutions, confidence-building and resilience of affected populations until the end of 2018. It also includes contingency planning for 80,000 more Rohingya refugees in the coming months.
The needs are urgent. The funding will help in meeting the life-saving and acute humanitarian needs both of refugees and of affected host communities. More than half the appeal (54 per cent) is to ensure food, water and sanitation, shelter and other basic aid. Food needs alone account for 25 per cent of the total.
Over 16 million litres of safe water are needed every day for the Rohingya refugee population. Some 12,200 metric tons of food are required every month. At least 180,000 refugee families need cooking fuel. Some 50,000 latrines need to be constructed and maintained, and at least 30 sewage management facilities are required.
As infrastructure and services continue to be overstretched, your help is urgently needed.
How can you help?
If you would like to support our work for the Rohingya families, please visit https://donate.unhcr.ph/rohingya.
Your donation is their lifeline.