International aid for Rohingya in Cox's Bazar camps declines

Bangladesh is concerned about funding cuts to the refugee aid programme for Muslims who fled Myanmar. Donor conference comes up with only 35 per cent of what is required. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi tells donors not to take for granted the host community’s patience, asks Asian donors to step up to the plate.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued an appeal this week to fund the 2021 Joint Response Plan destined for Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps. So far this year, funding is down.

Over the past four years, the UNCHFR, in cooperation with the Bangladeshi government and various NGOs, has provided assistance to approximately 880,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar and 472,000 Bangladeshis in host communities in Cox's Bazar district.

A donor conference was held on Tuesday, but only US$ 340 million dollars were pledged, about 35 per cent of the US$ 943 million required under the plan. Worrying Bangladeshi authorities is the fact that the UN plan in 2020 met only 59.4 per cent of the funding target.

One of the largest contributors, the United Kingdom, has recently scaled back its contribution. Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the British government announced its intention to no longer honour its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of its GDP on international cooperation. Hitherto, the UK was one of the biggest players in almost all global humanitarian crises.

As a result, UK aid for the Rohingya has gone from £ 117 million (US$ 165 million) in 2019 to £ 47.5 million (US million) in 2020, and is expected to drop to £ 27.6 million (US$ 39 million) this year.

Pro-Rohingya groups in the UK have slammed the cut, especially as it comes at a time when Myanmar’s military is cracking down on popular protests, which is exacerbating the refugee problem and reducing the likelihood of repatriation.

For UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, “Rohingyas should have [at least] the minimum access to livelihood. Otherwise, it is very risky to create a dependent population,” especially since “it is difficult to mobilise humanitarian assistance for many years”.

Speaking to the Daily Star about the situation in Cox's Bazar at the launch of the Joint Response Plan 2021, Mr Grandi noted that not only the Western countries – Europe, North America, or Australia but also the donors in Asia -- Japan, Korea, and the Gulf, should “do more.”

In fact, “The impact of the presence [of the Rohingyas] is very severe for the local community, environment, and infrastructure.” The UN is asking Bangladesh to be patient, but, Grandi added, “We are also asking donors, please do not take that patience [the host community's] for granted.”