UN: Immediate Action Needed As Rohingya Crisis Intensifies

More funds and aid are needed as the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar intensifies, a new UN report warns. The report, which was published last Friday, focused on the mass exodus of innocent civilians fleeing Myanmar into the neighbouring country Bangladesh. Since recent weeks, more than half a million people have arrived in Bangladesh. Refugee camps are estimated to take in 2,000 newly-arrived Muslim Rohingya refugees daily. Among the refugees, approximately 145,000 are children under 5. Owing to this huge influx, hunger is a grave problem in the camps. The Disasters Emergency Committee charity stated that at least 14,000 refugee children are suffering from acute malnutrition. More than 50,000 pregnant women are also in urgent need of food supply. Moreover, children and pregnant women are extremely vulnerable to diseases like Cholera. Indeed, the Rohingya crisis is highly likely to become worse, as the one-month ceasefire between the Muslim insurgents and the government forces is going to end at midnight on Monday. There is still no clear sign that the ceasefire agreement will be extended.

In addition to the violence, hunger, diseases and desperation that Rohingya Muslim refugees are bitterly suffering from, the monsoon season in Bangladesh further exacerbates the crisis. World Food Programme’s senior spokesperson Steve Taravella warned that rains would severely hit Bangladesh in this season. Floods resulted from the rains will make transportation of foods and other supplies particularly hard. Clean water resources is also threatened. Besides, Taravella pointed out that Bangladesh did know the consequence of climate change, but to make room for refugee camps, the local government had no alternative but to cut down numerous trees.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged that this influx of Rohingya Muslim refugees into Bangladesh since August 25 is “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency.” The UNHCR has declared the top level emergency, a ‘Level 3 Emergency,’ for this crisis. To tackle the issue, the new UN report said on Friday that it would provide $434 million to help the refugees and local host communities for the next 6 months. Plans are also being made by the WHO to implement a cholera vaccination that will protect 900,000 people. In addition, the US Government has promised $32 million in assistance. Other countries including Australia and the UK have also contributed $20 million. The hope is that after 6 months, the crisis will be resolved and the weak Bangladesh economy will no longer bear the financial brunt.

Despite all the efforts of the UN and various countries, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is still the only person who can effectively and rapidly solve the Rohingya crisis, provided that she really intends to. Rohingya Muslims have lived in Myanmar for decades. But instead of equal treatment and respect, the Rohingya are denied citizenship and are constantly discriminated by the majority Buddhist population. The crisis erupted a year ago when an insurgent Rohingya group attacked police posts in Rakhine state and killed a dozen personnel. The Myanmar security force retaliated ruthlessly against the rebels. Human rights violations such as mass killing, rape, and arson were believed to be committed by the Myanmar military in their “clearance operations.” Despite the fact that the UN has repeatedly urged Suu Kyi to stop the military operation and allow the Rohingya to return, she still hasn’t taken any concrete action. In last month’s national speech, Suu Kyi equivocated that the government knew little and time was needed for the investigation.

The Rohingya crisis is becoming worse, but it is fortunate to see various international actors coming together and actually providing the refugees with money and supplies. The new UN report is appealing for more funding and support, but on the other hand, tougher pressure must be applied to the Suu Kyi government. Sanctions should be considered if Suu Kyi still refuses to stop the violence immediately and let the Rohingya return with safety and dignity. Trade embargo should also be the consequence if foreign journalists are still forbidden to come into the country and independently investigate the situation.