Bangladesh under huge pressure as Rohingya exodus climbs above one million

Rohingya refugees line up to receive humanitarian aid in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Oct 26, 2017.
Rohingya refugees line up to receive humanitarian aid in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Oct 26, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

DHAKA (THE DAILY STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With news that more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived since August, joining some 400,000 already there in border camps, Bangladesh is struggling to find funds to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

A brutal crackdown by Myanmar troops that began in August has seen 604,000 Rohingya flee so far, 60 per cent of them children, said the United Nations.

The UN has called it "a textbook case of ethnic cleansing", using violence including rape to drive out Rohingya.

The Bangladeshi Finance Ministry is urgently assessing how much budget is needed to handle the increasing number of Rohingya fleeing into the country, after different ministries had already sought 650 million takas (S$10 million).

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Tuesday (Oct 24) ordered a report on the humanitarian funds needed, to be delivered in seven days. Mr Muhith said the Rohingya crisis would put huge pressure on budgetary measures.

The international community on Monday extended its support, pledging some US$344 million (S$468 million) to urgently ramp up the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees.

Finance Minister Muhith has asked his officials to ensure that government measures did not overlap with international measures.

Of the money sought by ministries, 500 million takas has been asked for rehabilitating Rohingya refugees at Bhasanchar camp, 100 million for sewerage facilities and drinking water supply and 50 million for local law enforcement.

A World Bank team has been conducting a need assessment to help Dhaka deal with the crisis that is already putting a tremendous pressure on Bangladesh.

A report of the Chittagong divisional commissioner reveals that up to Oct 12, the government distributed 490 tonnes of rice along with 416 tonnes from other agencies, to the Rohingya refugees.

A World Bank mission arrived in Dhaka on Saturday on a 14-day fact-finding mission to assess the refugees' needs. According to a UN assessment, US$434 million is required in six months.

Since the crisis began, UN agencies have ramped up relief efforts, including conducting a massive immunisation campaign that inoculated more than 700,000 people against cholera, as well as providing food assistance.