UN Migration Chief Ends Visit to Bangladesh as Bleak Picture Emerges of Rohingya Settlements

Yesterday (19/10) over 6,900 Rohingya refugees who were stranded in dire conditions in no-man’s land at Anjuman Para on Bangladesh’s side of the border, were moved by the Bangladesh military to several makeshift settlements in the Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Some 800,000 Rohingyas are now living in the settlements, 589,000 of whom have arrived since August 25th.

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Soaked to the skin a Rohingya mother tries to protect her child with her drenched scarf, as it pelted down with rain yesterday (19/10). They were among the 6,900 Rohingya refugees who arrived in Cox’s Bazar from no man’s land. Photo: UN Migration Agency/Timothy Wolfer 2017

Also yesterday, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing concluded a three-day visit to Bangladesh and thanked the government for its continued willingness to open the country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of desperate Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.

During Ambassador Swing’s meetings with high level officials, the Bangladesh Government reconfirmed its commitment to allow Rohingya seeking protection from violence in Myanmar to continue entering the country. It also confirmed its willingness to consider additional options for the settlement of the new arrivals, including the creation of more manageable, smaller camps to alleviate public health and security concerns.

On Thursday, men, women and children continued to pour into the settlements where IOM and its humanitarian partners are on the ground providing lifesaving assistance. They walked in long lines – exhausted, hungry and muddied after days of walking from villages in Myanmar’s North Rakhine State to Anjuman Para.  Men carried tired children and old people in baskets on shoulder poles, together with whatever meagre possessions they had salvaged from their homes. Children carried younger siblings on their backs and women trudged through the mud with infants in their arms under the rain.

The entrances to the Kutupalong refugee camp and makeshift settlement are a surging sea of humanity. Most families have nothing. The lucky ones have managed to bring some clothes, pots and pans, the odd water carrier.

One family arrived with their three daughters, but told IOM staff they had to leave their two sons behind to come later with neighbours. Another family said they had to leave their two young sons with neighbours, as they would not have been able to carry the boys, given the fact that their mother was ill and needed her husband’s help to walk.
Mohammed Hanun said he trekked for 11 days before reaching no man’s land in Anjuman Para. He waited there for three days without any food, before finally reaching Kutupalong yesterday.

These new arrivals bring the total Rohingya population of Cox’s Bazar settlements to around 800,000. IOM’s latest Needs and Population Monitoring Report, published on Wednesday, estimated that over half of the 582,000 new arrivals who were there by mid-week are women and girls. The report identified a total of 28 collective sites and 99 locations in host communities between 30 September – 9 October 2017.

The report noted that of the total population, 33,542 (4 per cent) were registered and living in two UNHCR refugee camps. The remaining 96 per cent (761,116) were living in makeshift settlements, spontaneous sites and host communities.

Based on sampling techniques across the sites, the assessment identified lactating mothers (9.2 per cent) and pregnant woman (4.9 per cent) as the two highest number of vulnerable groups within the population. An estimated 3.6 per cent of the total number of households were female-headed and 2.2 per cent headed by elderly persons.

Lifesaving services delivered by IOM and its partner agencies include clean water and sanitation, shelter, food security, healthcare, education and psychosocial support for the most vulnerable individuals, many of whom are suffering from acute mental trauma or are survivors of sexual violence.

Since late August, IOM has scaled up quickly – shelter has been provided to 379,000 individuals, while 47,000 health consultations have been provided. IOM has contributed 200 staff to assist in a Ministry of Health-led Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) campaign that has reached 679,000 people. Some 678,000 litres of water have been distributed, along with over 11,000 dignity kits. IOM staffing has also been boosted with 443 staff and community volunteers in country.

Earlier this month, the UN launched a Joint Response Plan, in order to sustain and enhance the large humanitarian effort already under way. The plan requires USD 434 million to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities – together an estimated 1.2 million people – for the difficult months to come.

IOM’s funding requirements within this plan amount to USD 120 million. A pledging conference for the crisis organized by IOM, UNOCHA and UNHCR, and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, will take place in Geneva on Monday (23/10). The conference will provide governments from around the world an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility for the Rohingya refugees.

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Categories: Human interest, Politics, Security

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