UN opens key fundraising conference for Rohingya refugees
The United Nations has opened a major fundraising conference aimed at securing aid for nearly one million persecuted Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh.
Elisabeth Rasmusson, the deputy chief of the World Food Programme (WFP), told the conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday that the funds would benefit the Rohingya refugees who have fled the ongoing violence in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.
"We are here today because, sadly, the needs are even greater than we can provide with our current resources," the UN official said, adding, "On behalf of the people we are trying to help, we must ask you for more."
Also addressing the conference, the UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, said, "We need more money to keep pace with intensifying needs. This is not an isolated crisis, it is the latest round in a decades-long cycle of persecution, violence and displacement."
"Children, women and men fleeing Myanmar are streaming into Bangladesh traumatized and destitute," he added. "We assess we have pledges of around $340 million."
Lowcock reiterated the UN call on Myanmar to allow "full humanitarian access across Rakhine" where aid agencies have been denied entry.
He said that Myanmar must "guarantee the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return so that the Rohingya can live in peace with their human rights upheld in Rakhine."
The pledging conference comes as the United Nations has appealed for $434 million to provide life-saving aid to 1.2 million people for six months.
According to the UN, the funds will benefit the 900,000 Rohingya refugees as well as roughly 300,000 local people from Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar area on the Myanmar border.
Rohingya arrivals ‘untenable’
Addressing the conference in Geneva, Shameem Ahsan, the ambassador of Bangladesh to the United Nations, called the exodus of Rohingya Muslims to his country as "untenable."
The diplomat called on Myanmar to let the refugees return.
"This is the biggest exodus from a single country since the Rwandan genocide in 1994," the ambassador said, adding, "Despite claims to the contrary, violence in Rakhine state has not stopped. Thousands still enter on a daily basis.”
Ahsan said Bangladesh's interior minister was in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, for talks to find a "durable solution."
Myanmar continues to issue "propaganda projecting Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh," the diplomat said, adding, "This blatant denial of the ethnic identity of Rohingyas remains a stumbling block."
Since October 2016, Myanmar’s army has been carrying out a military crackdown in Rakhine, where a large number of the Rohingya live.
Many of Rohingya Muslims who have managed to take refuge in Bangladesh say Myanmar's soldiers and Buddhist mobs have been attacking civilians and burning down their homes.