Nations pledge S$470 million to Rohingya response

A local resident donates money to the Rohingya refugees at the Palong Khali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on Oct 23, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - Nations have pledged US$345 million (S$470) to care for Myanmar's Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, an "encouraging" step in the response to the intensifying crisis, the UN said Monday (Oct 23).

Many of the funds for the minority Muslim group, who have fled from violence in the northern part of Myanmar's Rakhine state, were promised at a high-level conference in Geneva, co-hosted by the United Nations, the European Union and Kuwait.

The UN says it needs US$434 million to provide support through February for the 900,000 Rohingya who have fled across the border, as well as the 300,000 local Bangladeshis hosting the influx.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock called the haul "encouraging" and praised donors who "expressed their solidarity and compassion with the families and communities in need."

Some of the money was promised in the run up to the conference and Lowcock said he expected more commitments in the coming days.

A group of nations had also offered US$50 million of in-kind donations.

Lowcock stressed the importance of countries actually delivering the cash, with the UN having confronted unfulfilled pledges in past crises.

"Pledges are one thing," he told reporters. "It's really important to us that the pledges are translated as soon as possible into contributions".

Among the 35 nations and blocs that promised funds were Britain (US$63 million) the EU (US$42 million), the United States (US$38 million) and Sweden (US$24 million), according to the UN.

With no apparent resolution to the crisis in sight, Lowcock noted that there may be a need to raise more funds again next year.

The head of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacey Swing, called the wave of Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh "the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world." "It is, in its own way, a nightmare," he added.

Bangladesh's government and the community in the Cox's Bazar area on the Myanmar border have been broadly praised for the response to Rohingya refugee influx, notably for keeping the border open.

More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have headed for Bangladesh in huge numbers since late August after militant attacks on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine sparked a major army crackdown on the community likened to ethnic cleansing by the UN.

Rohingyas have been systematically deprived of basic rights over decades in majority Buddhist Myanmar.

In the latest crackdown, Myanmar's security forces have fired indiscriminately on unarmed civilians, including children, and committed widespread sexual violence, according to UN investigators.

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