News ID: 200514
Published: 0220 GMT September 13, 2017

UN seeks 'massive' aid boost amid Rohingya crisis as Myanmar leader skips UNGA meeting

UN seeks 'massive' aid boost amid Rohingya crisis as Myanmar leader skips UNGA meeting

Aid agencies have to step up operations “massively” in response to the arrival in Bangladesh of about 400,000 refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar, and the amount of money needed to help them has risen sharply, a senior UN official said on Wednesday.

The influx of Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh began on Aug. 25 with a sweeping military crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar which the UN rights agency said was a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, Reuters reported.

“We will all have to ramp up our response massively, from food to shelter,” George William Okoth-Obbo, assistant high commissioner for operations at the UN refugee agency said during a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.

The United Nations said Wednesday some 379,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state for Bangladesh since new violence erupted. But Okoth-Obbo estimated the figure was now 400,000. 

Bangladesh was already home to about 400,000 Rohingya, who fled earlier conflict in Myanmar including a similar security crackdown in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Many of the new arrivals are hungry and sick, without shelter or clean water in the middle of the rainy season.

“We have an emergency within an emergency with conditions in existing camps,” he said, pointing to a mud-clogged road in the camp.

Last week, the United Nations appealed for $77 million to cope with the crisis but Okoth-Obbo said that would not now be enough.

“The appeal that was issued of $77 million on behalf of the aid agencies was based on the situation as it was roughly about two weeks ago,” he said.

“There were only 100,000 people then. We are already four times that figure now. The funds need clearly is going to continue.”

He declined to say if he thought aid agencies were getting proper access to the conflict zone in Myanmar, though he said it was important to ensure that people were safe where they were.

“Of course, also that access is provided to all the responders to provide humanitarian assistance,” he added.

Myanmar has restricted most aid agency access to the north of Rakhine. 


Suu Kyi to miss UN meeting

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s national leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the upcoming UN General Assembly because of the Rohingya crisis, her office said on Wednesday.

Critics have called for her to be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize for failing to do more to halt the violence. 

Suu Kyi, in her first address to the UN General Assembly as leader in September last year, defended her government’s efforts to resolve the crisis over treatment of the Muslim minority.

Sympathizers say her hands are tied by the army, which still runs a chunk of the government and has complete control over all security matters.

Suu Kyi will give a public address next week on the crisis, her spokesman said.

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