UNITED NATIONS –UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday stepped up the UN appeal for aid for nearly one million Myanmar Rohingya in Bangladesh.
Saying funding for the one-billion-U.S.-dollar appeal has only reached 26 percent, he told a press conference in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, that “it is impossible to visit these camps without breaking our hearts with the suffering of the Rohingya people.”
A transcript of the press encounter was released at the UN headquarters. While Guterres profusely thanked the government of Bangladesh for hosting the refugees — nearly 700,000 of them who fled into the Cox’s Bazar District of southernmost Bangladesh since August 2017 — he implored the government of Myanmar to prepare northern Rakhine State for their return in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner.
The UN chief was accompanied on the visit by Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a post Guterres once held.
Kim announced over the weekend close to half a billion U.S. dollars in grant-based support to help Bangladesh address the needs of Rohingya refugees in areas such as health, education, water and sanitation, disaster risk management, and social protection.
“It is unacceptable that these people who have suffered so much in Myanmar now have to live in the difficult circumstances that these camps inevitably represent,” the UN chief said.
“I believe we need to combine a word of deep gratitude to the government and people of Bangladesh for the fact that they have opened their borders when so many other borders are closed in the world,” Guterres said.
“My appeal to the international community is to step up to the plate and to substantially increase the financial support to all those working in Bangladesh to protect and assist the Rohingya refugees,” he said.
The refugees plight has been compounded by flooding of their camps from monsoon downpours. He said it was “terrible for us to see more than 900,000 people living in these terrible circumstances.”
As high commissioner for refugees, Guterres said he had visited northern Rakhine State twice. While he had seen how widely the Rohingya suffered discrimination, there had been no terror campaign to make them flee.
The refugees said they had to flee their homes when marauding government and civilian militia torched villages, raped and killed in alleged retribution for deadly attacks by Rohingya militants on government security posts Aug. 25, 2017.Enditem