DHAKA – Wrapping up a four-day visit to Bangladesh today, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly T. Clements, recognized the country for hosting one million Rohingya refugees for nearly six years, calling for livelihood and self-reliance initiatives to be scaled up to prevent the humanitarian situation in the refugee camps from deteriorating.
In addition to further supporting host communities, the Deputy High Commissioner said it was time for serious efforts at building resilience and improving the lives of the Rohingya so they can take back the skills, training and education they received in Bangladesh when they are able to return home.
Clements met with Rohingya refugees, the country’s leadership, donors and humanitarian actors.
“We continue to advocate for creating conducive conditions in Myanmar so that refugees can go back safely and in dignity, and voluntary returns can be sustainable,” Clements said after visiting the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. “Refugees who wish to return should have access to clear, factual information to be able to make free and informed decisions. Under no condition should refugees be forced or coerced to return, which the Government assured us would not happen.”
Clements also emphasized that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, must be able to assess the voluntariness of refugees’ choices. She said refugees must be free from any pressure or incentive, and their decisions should be based on accurate information on the situation in Myanmar.
Rohingya refugees living in the camps are completely reliant on humanitarian aid for their basic needs. However, the minimum funding for this assistance is no longer available. Humanitarian agencies are now being forced to identify only the most critical interventions, and that means basic needs remain unmet, with dire consequences. On 1 June, the World Food Programme was forced to cut food aid for the second time in three months due to a lack of funding.
UNHCR is concerned that the ration cuts, which followed a major fire earlier this year and Cyclone Mocha’s impact just weeks ago, will result in higher malnutrition rates, school dropouts, increased child marriage, child labour and gender-based violence. Refugees are at risk of resorting to desperate measures in the absence of adequate support.
Clements called for refugees to be give better means of supporting themselves. “If the Rohingya are given the opportunity to gain some income, they can purchase most of their food themselves. They want to make their own choices. By accessing mobile financial services, they will be able to procure what they require to meet their daily needs,” she said.
In her meetings with Government partners, Clements also advocated for policies to allow more durable materials, which are fire and weather resistant, to be used for shelters. She stressed that it is important to build back safer and better as the cost of maintaining and rehabilitating shelters and facilities is now unsustainable every time a severe storm or other natural disaster hits the camps.
Humanitarian agencies have appealed for more than $876 million this year to support almost 1.5 million people, including 920,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char, and 495,000 Bangladeshis in neighbouring communities. As of June 2023, the Joint Response Plan was only 24 per cent funded. Predictable and sustained funding is needed to avert a wider humanitarian disaster.
- In Dhaka: Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain; firstname.lastname@example.org; +880 131 304 6459
- In Cox’s Bazar, Christine Pirovolakis: email@example.com; +66 61 410 7407
- In Bangkok, Babar Baloch, firstname.lastname@example.org, +66 80 086 5611
- In Geneva, Matthew Saltmarsh, email@example.com, +41 79 967 9936
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 347 574 6552
- In Ottawa, Levon Sevunts, email@example.com, +1 613-286-6975