Nations pledge $345 million to Rakhine refugee response


GENEVA — Nations have pledged US$345 million to care for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, an “encouraging” step in the response to the intensifying crisis, the UN said Monday.

Many of the funds for the Rohingya, who have fled from violence in northern Rakhine State, were promised at a high-level conference in Geneva, co-hosted by the United Nations, the European Union and Kuwait.

The UN says it needs $434 million to provide support through February for the 600,000 Rohingya who have fled across the border, as well as the 300,000 local Bangladeshis hosting the influx.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock called the haul “encouraging” and praised donors who “expressed their solidarity and compassion with the families and communities in need.”

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Some of the money was promised in the run up to the conference and Lowcock said he expected more commitments in the coming days.

A group of nations had also offered $50 million of in-kind donations.

Lowcock stressed the importance of countries actually delivering the cash, with the UN having confronted unfulfilled pledges in past crises.

“Pledges are one thing,” he told reporters. “It’s really important to us that the pledges are translated as soon as possible into contributions.”

Among the 35 nations and blocs that promised funds were Britain ($63 million) the EU ($42 million), the United States ($38 million) and Sweden ($24 million), according to the UN.

With no apparent resolution to the crisis in sight, Lowcock noted that there may be a need to raise more funds again next year.

The head of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacey Swing, called the wave of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh “the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.”

“It is, in its own way, a nightmare,” he added. 

Bangladesh’s government and the community in Cox’s Bazar have been broadly praised for the response to Rohingya refugee influx, notably for keeping the border open.

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have headed for Bangladesh in huge numbers since late August after militant attacks on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine sparked a major army crackdown on the community likened to ethnic cleansing by the UN.

The Rohingya have been systematically deprived of basic rights over decades in Myanmar.

In the latest crackdown, Myanmar’s security forces have fired indiscriminately on unarmed civilians, including children, and committed widespread sexual violence, according to UN investigators. Myanmar’s government and military have denied the charges.

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