This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
On the eve of this week’s donor conference for Rohingya refugees, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is stressing today the need for stronger international support and a redoubling of efforts to find solutions for this stateless and displaced population.
Together with the United States, United Kingdom and European Union, UNHCR is co-hosting a virtual donor conference this Thursday (22 October) to meet urgent humanitarian needs of forcibly displaced Rohingya both inside and outside Myanmar. Support for critical services in host communities is also a priority.
The ongoing humanitarian response is facing a dramatic shortfall this year as less than half of the requested funds have been received so far. In 2020, the United Nations has appealed for more than US$ 1 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has added layers of new challenges and needs to an already complex and massive refugee emergency.
Currently 860,000 Rohingya refugees are living in settlements across Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Most of them, some 740,000, fled from Myanmar during the most recent displacement crisis in 2017. Other countries in the region host some 150,000 Rohingya refugees. An estimated 600,000 live in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Across the entire region, most Rohingya live on the margins of society and they need to be assured access to basic healthcare, clean drinking water, a reliable food supply, or meaningful work and educational opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened their living conditions, made access to services even more challenging, increased the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and exacerbated the impacts of infectious diseases for displaced Rohingya living in crowded camps, such as those in Cox’s Bazar and in Rakhine State.
UNHCR stresses that the international community and countries in the region must not only maintain support for refugees and their hosts, but also adapt to critical new needs and expand the search for solutions.
The focus of the search for solutions to this crisis must be on the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and other displaced people to their homes or to a place of their choosing in Myanmar.
The responsibility for creating conditions conducive to the safe and sustainable return of Rohingya rests with Myanmar authorities. This process will need to engage the whole of society, open and enhance the dialogue between the Myanmar authorities and Rohingya refugees and take measures that help build confidence and trust. These include lifting restrictions on freedom of movement, enabling displaced Rohingya to return to their own villages and providing a clear pathway to citizenship.
The virtual donor conference, featuring also voices of Rohingya refugees, is scheduled to run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. CEST Geneva (8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. EDT Washington; 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. GMT+7 in Bangkok) on 22 October 2020. It will be live-streamed on www.rohingyaconference.org.
Funds raised at the conference will go to international organisations and non-governmental organisations working to alleviate the crisis on the ground in Myanmar, throughout the region, and towards the UN-led Joint Response Plan (JRP) in Bangladesh.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Bangkok, Catherine Stubberfield, firstname.lastname@example.org, +66 65 929 8062
- In Bangkok, Kasita Rochanakorn, email@example.com, +66 64 932 0803
- In Cox’s Bazar, Louise Donovan, firstname.lastname@example.org, +880 18 4732 7279
- In Yangon, Reuben Lim, email@example.com
- In Geneva, Andrej Mahecic, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 642 97 09
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, email@example.com, +1 347 443 7646
Originally published by UNHCR on 20 October 2020.