Friday, January 18, 2019 | ePaper
Rohingyas face triple threat: IOM
Head of the UN Migration Agency William Lacy Swing has said almost a million Rohingyas living in Bangladesh face a triple threat of extreme weather, funding shortfalls and uncertainty about their future.
The Director General of International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was crucial for the world to remain focused on the crisis, as a "failure to do so would have tragic outcomes for the nearly a million Rohingya refugees sheltering in Bangladesh." He made the remarks after reviewing progress by IOM and partners in managing the world's largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar discussions with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka and an earlier meeting on Thursday with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Swing praised the great hospitality of the local community and the government and people of Bangladesh as a whole in supporting the Rohingya refugees in what is now one of the world's largest humanitarian responses. He said, the world must recognize the hugely generous support that the Bangladesh government and host community here in Cox's Bazar has offered these refugees who arrived in such desperate conditions with nothing. "The Rohingya in Cox's Bazar are in danger of becoming the wretched of the earth, homeless and without a future," he said in a statement issued by the IOM, adding, "The world must rally to support them." Quoting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the IOM said, "The wellbeing of the Rohingyas is our concern while they are here (in Cox's Bazar Bangladesh)." She also underscored the enormity of the impact that so many refugees are having on the local population and the need for global solidarity to find a solution to their plight and humanitarian aid to support them and the surrounding host communities. Swing previously visited Cox's Bazar in October 2017, less than three months into a violent crisis which has sent more than 700,000 people fleeing over the border from Myanmar since late August 2017. The Rohingya now live in desperately cramped conditions on bare sandy slopes, with only bamboo and tarpaulin shelters to protect them from the elements, says the IOM.
All this in an area that suffers two cyclone seasons yearly and some of the heaviest monsoon conditions in the world, it said. Swing noted the major improvements to the camps' management and infrastructure carried out by IOM, and an entire spectrum of other UN agencies, NGOs as well as other organizations and the government, including access ways, bridges, drainage, sanitation and improved shelters.
However, as monsoon rains turned many hillsides to mud, Ambassador Swing warned that with just one quarter of joint funding appeal for the entire response met so far, much of the progress made in recent months was at serious risk of collapsing. That, he said, would create yet another life-threatening disaster for the Rohingya community. Swing, who met young mothers from the refugee and local Bangladeshi host community who had recently given birth at an IOM medical facility in the heart of the sprawling mega-camp stressed the vital role that such health services played for people in Cox's Bazar whether refugee or local residents.
"Everyone must recognize, in addition to the refugees' needs, the tremendous impact this crisis is having on the host community," he said. IOM has been working in Cox's Bazar providing medical care to the local community long before the crisis which began last August, he noted.
"All mothers - refugees and locals - should have access to safe, hygienic facilities to give birth and it's profoundly worrying that funding shortages are now threatening these crucial maternity services which are making such differences to the lives of women and babies from all backgrounds." Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Farhan Haq at a regular briefing at the UN headquarters on Tuesday said Swing stressed that it is crucial for the world to remain focused on the crisis, warning that, as monsoon rains turned many hillsides to mud and with just one quarter of joint funding appeal for the entire response met so far, much of the progress made in recent months was at serious risk of collapsing. The IOM DG left Dhaka on Monday night wrapping up his three-day visit. The number of people in need in Cox's Bazar district is now 1.3 million with 706,364 new Rohingya arrivals since August 25 last year, according to IOM.