Government gives more aid to Rohingya refugees
The government is to provide a second package of emergency aid for refugees fleeing Myanmar. The decision by development minister Lilianne Ploumen comes in response to an appeal from the International Red Cross, the only international organisation able to reach the northern part of Rakhine State. The Red Cross has warned that no funding is currently available for a substantial part of the humanitarian aid immediately needed in the region. ‘The plight of many people there is utterly desperate,’ the minister commented. ‘We simply cannot allow the situation to deteriorate any further.’
The new package of €1 million is for displaced people inside Myanmar. In addition, the government is donating another €1 million to help refugees who have fled to Bangladesh. All these people are seeking a safe haven in the wake of unrest that broke out in late August in Rakhine between an armed Rohingya group and the Myanmar army. There have been many civilian casualties and numerous reports of serious human rights violations by the military. The result is a major humanitarian problem in Myanmar and neighbouring areas. In contributing aid, the government is joining the efforts of other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine have fled or are otherwise vulnerable. The majority belong to the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. Besides the violence, the lack of access for aid organisations is a serious problem, made more difficult by the Myanmar authorities. The Red Cross is the only organisation reaching people in distress through its own channels, although the help they can give is far from ideal. The emphasis is on providing food, drinking water, latrines, medical assistance and shelter. Ms Ploumen said, ‘There are also reports of sexual violence and rape. So enhancing women’s safety is a priority.’
The additional €1 million in emergency aid is for refugees who have crossed the border into Bangladesh. The UN estimates that there are now over 500,000 people in this area, far more than the area can currently cope with. Recently, the government contributed an initial €1 million for aid to this category of displaced people. ‘In order to tackle this steadily worsening humanitarian emergency, it is vital for the situation in Rakhine to normalise and for aid organisations to get rapid access,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘To make this happen, the international community must keep up its pressure on the Myanmar army and authorities.’ The government’s aid to refugees in Bangladesh will be channelled through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).