DHAKA, Bangladesh, 5 October 2017
- We leave Bangladesh moved by the stories of suffering that we heard from refugees fleeing the violence in Myanmar – and all the more determined that the United Nations do all it can to assist the Government of Bangladesh in coping with this crisis.
The human tragedy unfolding in southern Bangladesh is staggering in its scale, complexity and rapidity. In just the past few weeks, well over half a million Rohingya people have crossed the border, making this the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency.
People arrive fearful, exhausted and hungry, and in desperate need of immediate help including shelter, food, clean water and sanitation, and healthcare. They bring with them terrible accounts of what they have seen and suffered -- stories of children being killed, women brutalized, and villages burned to the ground.
The Government and people of Bangladesh have demonstrated an extraordinary spirit of generosity by opening the country’s borders and leading the efforts to provide relief to the refugees. They have provided the world an inspiring example of humanity.
We were impressed in the camps and settlements we visited by the progress being made to assist the refugees. We saw the difference that the Government, the Bangladesh Armed Forces, UN agencies and our national and international NGO partners are making. But the needs are growing at a faster pace than our ability to meet them.
The refugees are living in flimsy bamboo and plastic shacks in the sprawling and densely-crowded sites that have sprung up to accommodate them. In these conditions, there is an ever-growing risk for an outbreak of disease. There are also numerous challenges for the response including limited road access to the dispersed refugee populations, a population that is still moving and a lack of land for shelter and infrastructure. Beyond these impediments, we face an urgent need for the resources that will allow us to continue to ramp up and sustain our efforts.
Funding is urgently needed so that all refugees have access to food, shelter, water, sanitation facilities, health care and protective services. Conditions in the temporary settlements are dire. Without a significant increase in assistance, the refugees, who have suffered so much already, could face another catastrophe on top of the tragedies that caused them to flee their homes.
Today an update to the UN response plan was released, seeking US$430 million (AUD 546) which is urgently needed to scale up the relief operation in support of the refugees and the host communities where they are seeking refuge. In support of this, an additional US$12 million (AUD 15.2) from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has been allocated to assist in the establishment of new sites for the newly arrived refugees.
We welcomed, in our meetings with Government officials, their assurances of ever closer cooperation.
Unfortunately, this appalling situation is not over. People are still crossing from Myanmar into Bangladesh, fleeing for their lives and requiring immediate support. We call again on the Myanmar authorities to allow the full resumption of humanitarian action across all of Rakhine state, and will continue to advocate for conditions to be created that allow for people to safely, securely and voluntarily go home.
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ROHINGYA REFUGEE CRISIS
The following statistics and quotes are from the Press Briefing held in Cox’s Bazar on 3rd October 2017.
- More than half a million new refugees have crossed into Cox’s Bazar since 25 August. The total amount of land now occupied by refugees is 9.6 million square metres. This is equivalent to 889 football fields.
- Up to 60 per cent of the new arrivals are children, and 30 per cent are children under five years old. Seven per cent are infants under one year old. Three percent of the newly arrived refugees are pregnant, and 7 per cent are breastfeeding women.
- Up to one in five refugee households are headed by women, and 5 per cent by children.
- Up to 90 per cent of new arrivals have reported eating just one meal a day. Food security and malnutrition rates were alarmingly high even before the influx of new arrivals. In Balukhali settlement, rates of malnutrition were already above emergency thresholds. It is estimated that one out of five children under the age of five suffers from acute malnutrition.
- More than 1,600 unaccompanied and separated children have been identified and are being provided with support.
- More than 200,000 newly arrived Rohingya children need access to education.
- Over half the refugees are living in sites with no access to healthcare; and 30 per cent have no access to water.
- In the last week, at least 4,790 cases of diarrhoea have reported. WHO has warned of the potential for an outbreak of cholera.
- Over half of the gender-based violence (GBV) cases that have been reported by Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar are sexual assault. This is exceptionally high.
- The humanitarian needs on the ground are vast. Approximately 15 million food rations are required every month; 150,000 women and children need support to prevent and treat malnutrition; 320,000 refugees need immediate access to clean water and sanitation; and more than 3,000 cubic litres of safe water are needed every day.
- Since the start of the crisis, the UN and partners have delivered 9 million food rations, provided 190,000 people with emergency shelter kits, and provided 159,000 people with access to healthcare. Over 400 tube wells and 3,000 latrines have been constructed. The Government with support of UNICEF and WHO have also vaccinated more than 100,000 against measles, rubella, and polio.
- UNICEF Executive Director, Mr Anthony Lake, speaking at a joint press briefing with the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr Mark Lowcock, said, “We shouldn’t let the numbers of this crisis numb us to the fact that everyone of these numbers represents a human life, the majority of whom are children - children who need our urgent help.”
- Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr Mark Lowcock said, “The conditions that people are living in are horrific, and it is vital that we do all we can to make sure that the current refugee tragedy does not now become a catastrophe with the outbreak of disease. We will only ensure that, if there is more funding to scale up the response.”