SAF airlifts aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Above: Supplies being unloaded from the RSAF plane yesterday. Left: Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Lim Lit Lam handing over a box of aid to Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Md Abdul Mannan yesterday, along with Dr Maliki Osman. With them are (from far l
Supplies being unloaded from the RSAF plane yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Above: Supplies being unloaded from the RSAF plane yesterday. Left: Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Lim Lit Lam handing over a box of aid to Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Md Abdul Mannan yesterday, along with Dr Maliki Osman. With them are (from far l
Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Lim Lit Lam handing over a box of aid to Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Md Abdul Mannan yesterday, along with Dr Maliki Osman. With them are (from far left) Ms Zhang Tingjun and Lieutenant-Colonel Siva Balan.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) team yesterday airlifted its first batch of humanitarian supplies to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The relief package - comprising tents, blankets, food, medical supplies and lamps - was delivered by a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) KC-135R transport aircraft to Chittagong airport.

A second batch is slated to be delivered today. The aid, worth around $270,000, was donated by the Singapore Government and independent disaster relief organisation Mercy Relief.

Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who travelled to Bangladesh with the SAF, witnessed the handing over of the supplies to Chittagong Divisional Commissioner Md Abdul Mannan by Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Lim Lit Lam from the SAF's Chan-gi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre.

"Singapore offers our deepest condolences to all those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state," Dr Maliki said. "We are a small state, we do what we can to help."

Some 500,000 Rohingya are estimated to have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state for Bangladesh since violence broke out in August.

This week's airlift comes two weeks after the Singapore Government said it would donate about $300,000 worth of humanitarian relief supplies to Bangladesh and Myanmar for the affected communities.

A HELPING HAND

Singapore offers our deepest condolences to all those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state. We are a small state, we do what we can to help.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR DEFENCE AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS MALIKI OSMAN

TARGETING THE VULNERABLE

With women and children making up a majority of those displaced by the conflict, there is an urgent need to prioritise their safety. By providing solar lamps, we can increase a sense of security for those sleeping out in the open.

MERCY RELIEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ZHANG TINGJUN

Singapore had also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation, and said it stood ready to support efforts by Asean to provide humanitarian assistance.

Yesterday, Mindef said that since conveying the Singapore Government's offers of humanitarian assistance to the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sept 29, the SAF has been working closely with Singapore's Foreign Ministry, Mercy Relief and the Bangladeshi government to coordinate the delivery of aid supplies to meet displaced people's needs.

Dr Maliki said the supplies delivered were based on feedback from the Bangladeshi government on the needs on the ground.

"We hope this will alleviate some of the conditions of some of the people who are currently in Cox's Bazar," he said.

Chittagong is 130km north of Cox's Bazar, where many refugees have gathered.

"Singaporeans are also equally concerned with what they see is happening," Dr Maliki added, noting that many community groups have stepped up to raise funds and work with relief agencies to distribute them.

Meanwhile, Mercy Relief said it had identified women as the most vulnerable group in the overpopulated evacuation camps.

Its team members will be distributing relief items such as dignity kits for women that contain scarves, sanitary napkins and soap, as well as solar lamps and tents.

"With women and children making up a majority of those displaced by the conflict, there is an urgent need to prioritise their safety," said Mercy Relief executive director Zhang Tingjun, who also travelled to Chittagong.

"By providing solar lamps, we can increase a sense of security for those sleeping out in the open."

She added: "Additionally, the tents distributed can provide a private space for girls and nursing mothers. Addressing these needs can promote the overall well-being of those displaced."

SEE WORLD

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'SAF airlifts aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe