UN seeks $876m Rohingya aid package after funding cuts

The United Nations said Tuesday it needs $876 million to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, after dwindling donations for the persecuted minority forced a cut to their food rations, AFP reports.

Around one million members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya community live in squalid relief camps in Bangladesh, many after fleeing a 2017 military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.

A drastic fall in aid pledges last year left only $553 million to meet their needs, well below the funds sought by aid agencies.

On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency urged international donors to shore up their commitments or risk worsening a protracted humanitarian crisis.

“Every day, the nearly one million Rohingya women, children and men… wake up in a chilling fog of uncertainty about their futures,” said Johannes van der Klaauw, the agency’s Bangladesh representative.

“With decreased funding, refugees stand to face even more challenges in their daily lives.”

The aid shortfall prompted the World Food Programme to cut food rations this month for people in the refugee camps, where malnutrition is already rampant.

Van der Klaauw said the cuts were likely to result in even higher malnutrition, school dropouts and incidents of child marriage.

The 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar — now the subject of a UN genocide investigation — sent around 750,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh with harrowing stories of murder, rape and arson.

Bangladesh has struggled to support its immense refugee population and the prospects of a wholesale return to Myanmar or resettlement elsewhere are remote.

Rohingyas living in the camps around Cox’s Bazar are not allowed to seek employment and are almost entirely dependent on limited humanitarian aid to survive.

Large numbers of refugees have attempted hazardous sea crossings hoping to find a better life away from the camps, including more than 2,000 people last year, according to the UN refugee agency.

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