Dhaka – UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett on Wednesday warned of a “race against time” to protect Rohingyas from the worst impacts of the upcoming monsoon season in Bangladesh.
Blanchett, on completion of her Bangladesh visit, called for urgent action to support UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – and its partners, working with the government of Bangladesh, to avoid an “emergency within an emergency”.
Heavy rains, potential cyclones and adverse weather conditions are threatening to put more than one hundred thousand Rohingya refugees living in congested settlements in Cox’s Bazar district, south-eastern Bangladesh, at serious risk in the coming months.
Since August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar have sought safety in Bangladesh.
“The Rohingya refugees have already experienced targeted violence, human rights abuses and horrific journeys. They have shown unimaginable resilience and courage,” Blanchett said, speaking at the end of her visit to Kutupalong, Nyapara and Chakmarkul settlements near Cox’s Bazar this week.
Blanchett, who was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people, said, “But now, as the monsoon season approaches, the Government of Bangladesh, supported by UNHCR and its partners, are in race against time to ensure the refugees are as safe as they can be to deal with potential floods and landslides.”
Blanchett said she has seen first-hand how UNHCR – with its partners and with the refugees themselves – are working flat out to avoid an emergency within an emergency in Cox’s Bazar district, according to UNHCR.
“Staff are on the ground distributing shelter and pre-monsoon kits to the vulnerable families, reinforcing roads, bridges, steps and other infrastructure that risk being washed away, and relocating families to safer places where land is available. But more is urgently needed to ensure refugees stay safe,” Blanchett continued.
Calling for the international community to show solidarity and share the responsibility of this crisis with government and people of Bangladesh, Blanchett said the people of Bangladesh and host communities have been the first to respond to this crisis, supported by agencies like UNHCR and its partners.
“But I cannot stress how much more help is needed for these vulnerable stateless refugees, the majority of whom are women and children. This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, the monsoons are coming and it is critical that the international community, private sector and individuals all do what they can to support these stateless refugees and the communities hosting them.”
The government and people of Bangladesh have shown tremendous generosity and hospitality in the face of this influx.
Faced with acute risk of an emergency within the emergency, UNHCR and its partners are supporting the Bangladesh Government in Cox’s Bazar to prepare both refugee and host communities ahead of the monsoon season.
Head of UNHCR’s emergency operation in Cox’s Bazaar, Kevin J. Allen, said, “Bangladesh saved thousands of lives when it opened its borders and arms to Rohingya refugees. It is now critical that we stand firmly with Bangladesh and the refugees we serve to protect them from cyclonic winds and heavy rains.”
UNHCR is working to build dignified and decent lives for the stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, including access to healthcare, education, shelter and self-reliance.
The solutions to this refugee crisis lie in Myanmar, and UNHCR has called on Myanmar to create conditions in Rakhine State that would permit the safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees who voluntarily choose to return to their homes.
UNHCR has also called for unfettered humanitarian access to all communities and to all areas of origin and potential return in Rakhine State and has offered to support the Government of Myanmar to rapidly implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
This week, a new inter-agency donor appeal for Bangladesh announced funding requirements of US$951 million through to December 2018 to assist refugees and host communities affected by the refugee influx.
UNHCR is seeking US$196.3 million to continue its work providing lifesaving assistance and protection for the Rohingya refugees supporting host communities.UNB