Australia for UNHCR has launched an emergency appeal for the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh.
Over 164,000 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since violence broke out in the northern part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017. UNHCR is leading the humanitarian response, and has issued a global call for support to help it deliver life-saving aid.
Duniya Aslam Khan, UNHCR spokesperson for Asia and the Pacific, said: “Those who have made it to Bangladesh are in poor condition. Most have walked for days from their villages – hiding in jungles, crossing mountains and rivers with what they could salvage from their homes. They are hungry, weak and sick.”
The new arrivals are scattered in different locations in south-eastern Bangladesh. More than 30,000 Rohingya are estimated to have sought shelter in the existing refugee camps, Kutupalong and Nayapara. The camps are already overcrowded, having seen over 16,000 new arrivals within a week of the outbreak of violence in Myanmar on 25 August. This week 20,000 more people fled into Bangladesh just one day.
UNHCR is working with the local authorities and partner organisations to deliver relief supplies such as clothes, plastic sheets for shelter and sleeping mats. UNHCR is also identifying vulnerable arrivals, including unaccompanied children, who need additional care and protection. More than US$6 million is urgently needed the fund the emergency response.
“Kutupalong and Nayapara camps are at breaking point. The new arrivals are hosted by refugee families and in refugee schools, community centres, madrassas and covered structures. We are running out of available space,” said Khan.
Dilara, a 20-year-old mother who arrived in Kutupalong camp this week, told UNHCR emergency staff: “My husband was shot in the village. I escaped with my son and in-laws. We walked for three days, hiding when we had to. The mountain was wet and slippery and I kept falling.”
Vivian Tan, a UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, described the situation as “the most desperate and devastating thing I’ve seen in my 15 years of working with refugees”.
“We were driving to a refugee camp when we passed this beach. We saw dozens of boats on the sea and people just streaming off them. These people were exhausted but they were also relieved. Some of them just collapsed on the beach,” said Tan.
Over 350,000 Rohingya had already sought protection and been hosted in Bangladesh prior to this latest influx.
“Australians have traditionally been incredibly generous when it comes to supporting people in crises such as this,” said Mark Macdonald of Australia for UNHCR. “We call on Australians to again reach out to help refugee families in desperate need.”
Donate at unrefugees.org.au/rohingya or call 1300 361 288.
Further assets will become available in coming days.
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