Stronger global solidarity needed
Published : 05 Oct 2017, 13:28
The international communality's solidarity must match Bangladesh's efforts in dealing with the Rohingya refugee crisis, said the chief of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"We will be encouraging the donor countries to be generous in financing the response plan," said OCHA head Mark Lowcock in an interview with two newspapers at the UN office in the capital following his two-day visit to the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.
In a meeting in Geneva tomorrow, the heads of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Migration Agency, and UN Refugee Agency, would formally ask member states for assistance, he said.
The UN has appealed for $434 million to scale up relief operations for the Rohingya refugees over the next six months.
Earlier in September, the UN appealed to the international community for $77m for immediate relief efforts, against which it received $44.8m until early this month.
Mark Lowcock said Bangladesh has been exceptionally generous and welcoming to the refugees, and hoped that everybody recognised the country as a role model in handling refugees despite not being rich.
They would present in the Friday's meeting the assessment of the situation in the Rohingya camps, the requirements and the measures Bangladesh has generously taken to help over 500,000 refugees.
"We will be saying that Bangladesh needs help [in handling the situation]," said the OCHA chief who is also the under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN.
He elaborated the situation in the Rohingya camps, the possible ways of successful Rohingya repatriation, and raised questions over Myanmar's unwillingness to engage the UN in Rohingya repatriation process as proposed by a Myanmar delegation in Dhaka on October 2.
He said the UN agencies act in consistent with the international humanitarian law and maintains the principles of humanity, independence, neutrality and impartiality.
"When countries don't want UN agencies to come, I think you have to ask serious questions why that is," Mark Lowcock said.
SITUATION 'VERY DIFFICULT'
Sharing his experience in the Rohingya camps, the UN official said, "The situation is very difficult."
The trauma of the Rohingyas, who fled violence, arson, shootings, killings and rape in Rakhine needs to be dealt with seriously. They need counselling and access to medical facilities, he said.
Mark Lowcock said the camps were very congested, and the major issues were road access, camp management, water, and sanitation.
"One of the things we are worried about is the danger of disease outbreak. We need to reduce the risks by improving sanitation facilities fast."
He noted of UN and other agencies' relief operations that were in progress. The relief effort at this stage was not keeping up with the requirements, he said.
Mark Lowcock also said they have incorporated in the response plan the support to the host communities and involvement of Bangladeshi institutions and civil society in the relief operations.
For a safe and dignified return of the Rohingya refugees, the situation in Rakhine must improve, he said.
"That has to start with cessation of hostility and military activities in Rakhine. Second step is allowing full access of humanitarian agencies across Rakhine," he said.
"The onus is on the authorities in Myanmar to put in place the arrangement … so that the people who fled feel that it is safe to return," he said.
The UN remains ready for humanitarian assistance in Rakhine and help Myanmar implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission in addressing the problems of the Rohingyas there, the UN official added.
There is widespread poverty and shortage of opportunities in Rakhine state, he said.
Mark Lowcock said when the Rohingya refugees were confident that they would not be terrorised, brutalised, killed, attacked and raped, they would go back.
Unless that situation was created, it was unlikely that the Rohingyas would return to Rakhine.
"We think that a significant number of people will come [to Bangladesh] and estimates may vary. Some say 200,000 more Rohingya may come and some others say it may be 300,000."
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