A Rohingya family sits outside their tent at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. CNS photo/Abir Abdullah, EPA

‘Fastest growing crisis’ growing worse for Rohingya

  • December 21, 2017
Development and Peace has raised $590,000 to fund its work in Bangladesh and Myanmar with Rohingya refugees, $450,000 of which is eligible for matching funds from Ottawa.

In total, Canadians donated more than $12.5 million to various charities to be matched by the federal government through its Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund. So far the government of Canada has responded to the Rohingya crisis with over $37.5 million in humanitarian funding.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has already received $750,000 from Global Affairs Canada. The funds have been used by Caritas Bangladesh as part of a $6-million program supported by the international Caritas network.

As an organization with experience in the region and contacts on the ground, Development and Peace is among the Canadian charities eligible to apply for funding from the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund.

While Canada has been among the quickest and most generous in responding to over 600,000 Muslim refugees on the run from village burnings and military sweeps through Myanmar’s Rakhine State, humanitarian assistance will never be enough, said Development and Peace emergencies program officer for the Myanmar crisis Stéphane Vinhas.

“Considering the scale of the crisis, nothing will ever be enough,” Vinhas wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

As of Dec. 12 more than 647,000 Rohingya, most of them women and children, had crossed the border into Bangladesh, according to the https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/bangladesh. These are in addition to an estimated 300,000 Rohingya who were already living as refugees in Bangladesh. 

A Doctors Without Borders survey of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh found that at least 9,000 Rohingya died in Myanmar’s Rakhine State between Aug. 25 and Sept. 24, and over 70 per cent were directly and violently killed, including 730 children under the age of five.

Nearly 70 per cent of those killed were shot, nine per cent were burned alive in their houses and five per cent were beaten to death.

“Unfortunately, the fastest growing crisis ever may also become one of the longest lasting crises,” said Vinhas. “It’s important to keep an eye and our attention on the situation, before it becomes another forgotten crisis.”

The Development and Peace response in Bangladesh seeks to avoid replicating the work already being done by United Nations agencies and hundreds of other NGOs. Development and Peace partners are focussing on new or upgraded sites which the government in Bangladesh has designated as priority areas for resettlement. By moving people out of overcrowded existing camps, these projects will allow for upgrades in the existing camps and new camps that are better planned and equipped. 

Caritas is trying to ensure women feel safe and families have access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, Vinhas said.

“Support to the huge needs created by the humanitarian crisis is very important, but it remains also important to try to reach a diplomatic agreement for the return of the Rohingyas to their place of origin,” Vinhas said.

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