It’s been a year since a mass exodus of Rohingya people from Myanmar began, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing what the United Nations described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Violence broke out against the Rohingya people in the northern Rakhine state, sparked by a Rohingya insurgent attack on dozens of police posts and an army base on Aug. 25.
Stories shared by refugees once safely in Bangladesh revealed the horrific violence directed against them — and gave rise to international outrage and appeals for humanitarian aid.
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In the 12 months since, the British public has raised over £28 million — supported with £5 million from the government’s UK aid match scheme — in support of the Rohingya refugees who are now stranded in Bangladesh.
The appeal was launched in October 2017 by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) — made up of 13 UK aid agencies including Concern Worldwide, World Vision, Plan International UK, Islamic Relief, and the British Red Cross — and it will be ending this month.
And the funding has been vital in providing basic necessities, including food, clean water, and shelter, for hundreds of thousands of people.
More than 700,000 people have now arrived in the Cox’s Bazar district since Aug. 25, 2017, and in total there are 1.3 million in need of humanitarian assistance in the area, according to the DEC.
The Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site — informally known as the "megacamp" — is now considered to be the world’s biggest refugee camp.
According to Simon Beresford, of the DEC, the donations made has “demonstrated the incredible generosity and compassion” of British people.
In the first six months alone, the money provided:
- Food for 351,500 people (more than the population of Cardiff).
- Household essentials like blankets and pots and pans for 34,000 families.
- Clean drinking water and sanitation for 124,400 people, including the construction of 90 deep tube wells.
- 19,500 families with materials to build a shelter.
- 42,300 people with free medical care and health support.
- 28,200 vulnerable people with some form of protection, including the provision of 43 safe spaces for women, children, and older people.
- 10,700 families with vouchers to buy fresh food.
“Thanks to the British public, DEC charities have been able to reach hundreds of thousands of people in what is now the world’s biggest refugee camp with food, shelter, clean water, and much more,” said Beresford.
“But this crisis is ongoing and the monsoon rains have worsened the situation which is why we are hoping to push the total even further,” he added.
Your generous donations have meant our #Rohingya crisis appeal has raised a huge £28m, incl £5m in @DFID_UK#AidMatch.— DEC (@decappeal) August 23, 2018
Help us reach more people in the world's biggest refugee camp by sharing our fundraiser: https://t.co/SZzwittsKv#UKAidpic.twitter.com/fPTDAVYspX
As a result of the monsoons, tens of thousands of people have had to be relocated to safer ground — although the rains haven’t so far been as disastrous as aid agencies had feared.
Nevertheless, the monsoons have still been deeply destructive. More than 100 learning centres have been damaged by landslides, and 70 by flooding, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG).
“A year later, refugees now face additional threats,” said the ISCG in a statement. “They live in congested sites that are ill-equipped to handle the monsoon rains and cyclone seasons — with alarmingly limited options for evacuation.”
“Many refugees have expressed anxiety about their future, explaining that they would not agree to return until questions of citizenship, legal rights, access to services, justice, and restitution are addressed,” it added.
Landslides and erosions have already impacted around 15,300 refugees, while more than 300 toilets and bathing facilities are still being repaired after they were damaged by rains.
But the rain is still falling, and the worst could still be yet to come, according to the DEC.
Charities are helping refugees get ready for the rains by reinforcing shelters; strengthening the site of the refugee settlements using sandbags and bamboo to prevent landslides; decommissioning and dislodging latrines; and digging deep tube wells to prevent water contamination and the spread of disease; as well as meeting ongoing food needs.
The second phase of the relief operation will last for another year, until September 2019 and, in that time, funds raised by the British public will support nine health facilities and two mobile clinics — reaching another 200,000 people.
The money will also help dig 55 deep tube wells to provide clean drinking water; provide public and individual solar lamps to keep 11,000 people safe at night; and provide agricultural tools and seeds; as well as business grants to help 15,000 people restore their livelihoods.