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1ST LEAD EU, Saudis pledge aid for Rohingya as UN describes 'massive' need By Albert Otti, dpa

Europe
23.10.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Geneva (dpa) - Donor countries gathered in Geneva on Monday, responding to a UN request for 434 million dollars to address the world‘s fastest-growing refugee crisis unfolding in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, one of Asia‘s poorest countries, has taken in some 580,000 minority Rohingya who have fled alleged atrocities in Myanmar‘s Rakhine state since late August.

Refugees in and around the Bangladeshi fishing town of Cox‘s Bazar have faced food and water shortages, lack of shelters and inadequate sanitation facilities, raising the risk of disease outbreaks.

Nearly six out of 10 refugees are children, many of them arriving malnourished.

"It‘s a pretty grim situation," UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said. "The needs are massive."

At the UN conference, the European Union pledged 30 million euros (35.26 million dollars) in aid for the Rohingya refugee crisis.

"We have a moral duty to give these people hope," said Christos Stylianides, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.

Saudi Arabia pledged 20 million dollars.

The 434-million-dollar sum is calculated to fund UN operations until the end of February in Bangladesh, which has kept its borders open despite being one of Asia‘s poorest countries.

Bangladesh‘s Geneva envoy Shameem Ahsan warned that the influx was creating economic, social and environmental problems in his country.

The violence in Rakhine has not stopped, and thousands are still crossing the border every day, he said.

"This is an untenable situation," he added.

The president of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, Joanne Liu, described the chaos and suffering she saw during a recent visit to a refugee camp, where children get lost on their way to collect water, while adults collapse because of dehydration.

"The camp is a time bomb ticking towards a full blown health crisis," she warned.

The Rohingya, a marginalized Muslim group in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have been struggling with poverty and discrimination, including the denial of citizenship rights.

In late August, Myanmar security forces launched an operation against attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine. UN human rights investigators have concluded that the burning of villages, persecution of community leaders as well as killings and rapes amount to a systematic effort to drive out the Rohingya.

Beyond appealing for funds, UN leaders urged the international community to get involved to stop the violence and discrimination.

"This is not an isolated crisis," UN emergency aid chief Mark Lowcock said, pointing to decades of "persecution, violation and displacement."

The new arrivals in Cox‘s Bazar have joined those Rohingya who had crossed to Bangladesh before August, amounting to a total of around 1 million people.

 

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