UNICEF calls on the world to urgently swing into action and do much more to help the Rohingya people and avert a humanitarian catastrophe

SYDNEY, Friday 20 October 2017 – The plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar and their mass exodus as refugees to Bangladesh is the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world today, so the international community – including Australia - must urgently commit to a strong, fast and assertive response if we are to avoid a rapid and protracted escalation of this disaster, UNICEF Australia said today.
 
“This is not a time for the world to look away,” said Oliver White, Senior Policy Advisor at UNICEF Australia. “It is a time for the international community – including the Australian government, media and wider community - to respond with vigour.”
 
UNICEF is calling for the international community to take action in relation to this crisis in four key areas:
1.  Urgently providing humanitarian aid - on 2 October, UNICEF launched a US$76.1 million appeal, which to date has only been seven per cent fulfilled – as part of the Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) released by the UN and humanitarian agencies, refugee children will be provided with education, counselling, healthcare and other support services to help them overcome all they have endured.
2.  Ensuring protection of children and humanitarian access - The first and most important step in ending the crises in both Myanmar and over the border in Bangladesh is to stop atrocities against civilians. Therefore, humanitarian actors must have immediate and unfettered access to all children affected by the violence in Rakhine state; authorities in Myanmar must protect the rights of all children and meeting the critical humanitarian needs of Rohingya children in Rakhine state; and the Government of Bangladesh must maintain its critical leadership role in responding to the refugee crisis for as long as necessary. This includes keeping its borders open to Rohingya refugees and recognizing the refugee status, extending international protection to refugee children, and guaranteeing that children born to Rohingya communities residing temporarily in Bangladesh have their births registered.
3.  Constructing a process for voluntary, safe and dignified returns for children and their families to Myanmar - This process should include: allowing families to return to their location of origin, development assistance to the villages of returnees, implementation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State recommendations and the registration of refugees in Bangladesh using internationally accepted standards.
4.  Establishing a political solution to address the root causes, addressing issues of statelessness and discrimination - The recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State offer a way forward towards the establishment of a safe, stable and socially inclusive environment for all communities. The Government of Myanmar should fully implement the Commission’s recommendations. 

“Since August 25, more than half a million Rohingya refugees have fled horrific violence in Myanmar – murder, rape, burning of villages, horror and loss - and crossed the border into Bangladesh,” said Oliver White. “Almost 60 per cent of the refugees are children - 21 per cent of children under five years of age are suffering from malnutrition. Over 1500 are known to have been separated from their families or fled on their own. Disease, violence and the threat of exploitation and trafficking are ever-present dangers for these vulnerable children who’ve all suffered tremendous distress.”
 
“The humanitarian aid challenge ahead is enormous,” said Mr White. “For example, to meet minimum international humanitarian standards in just one of the refugee villages, 9 million litres of safe water is needed daily to meet the basic requirements of the Rohingya people and affected host communities.”
 
UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, Edouard Beigbeder, said a successful humanitarian response now would carry wider positive ramifications.
 
“A whole generation of Rohingya people - and the children as much as any – feels rejected by the world,” he said. “This may already be planting the seeds of future enmity and hatred – unless we act now to help them, and the young especially.”
 
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For more information, please contact:
Brinsley Marlay, External Communications Manager, UNICEF Australia, 0403 604 182, bmarlay@unicef.org.au