DHAKA – The United Nations refugee agency said on Monday that only 14 percent of the $920 million needed has been pledged so far in response to its new plan to support 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh.
Khaled Khalifa, the UN agency’s representative for Gulf countries, indicated that the 2019 Joint Response Plan for Rohingya refugees had to compete with other emergencies around the world for funding.
“Unfortunately, most of the response plans around the world are underfunded and this means that the refugees and people in need do not receive the optimum service that we hope to provide them,” Khalifa told reporters in Dhaka.
“(It’s) very sad situation that emergencies compete for funding and for visibility in the media. But we are hoping that the JRP (Joint Response Plan for Rohingyas) will receive the higher level of funding than last year,” said the official of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“Until now, the plan is funded 14 percent only. This is a very small percentage. Last year by the end of the year, the plan was funded 64 percent.”
Last year, the UN’s Joint Response Plan raised $655 million against a target of $950 million.
The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration in February this year launched a campaign to raise $920 million in a new plan to aid Rohingyas in Bangladesh.
Over half of the solicited money, also meant to assist 330,000 vulnerable Bangladeshi hosts, is needed to meet the basic needs such as food, water, sanitation and shelter of the refugees who have fled from Myanmar to the neighboring country since 2017.
The rest of the fund will be utilized to finance programs related to education, health and the protection of women and children, according to UNHCR and the IOM.
Rashid M Khalikov, an Assistant Secretary General of the UN for Humanitarian Partnership with Middle-East and Central Asia, led a high-level partnership mission in Bangladesh from March 21 to observe and assess first-hand the humanitarian needs and challenges on the ground of both the refugees and the host communities.
The delegation included high-level officials from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, together with Turkey and the European Union.
Khalifa, who accompanied the delegates during their visit to Rohingya camps, pleaded with the donors to support their plan fully.
“We hope that this year we will reach 100 percent. That we hope and aspire to, because every penny short means less service somewhere that should be provided to the refugee or a member of the host community,” he said.
The UNCHR official insisted that the plan is asking for “reasonable” expenses to support nearly 1 million refugees.
“The JRP is asking $920 million to serve about one million. If you divide that, it means you are expecting to spend about 80-85 dollars per person per month. That is not really expensive to provide shelter, to provide adequate protection,” he said.
More than 738,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 2017, while 200,000 members of the community had earlier escaped to Bangladesh.
Most of the refugees live under harsh conditions in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area near the Myanmar border that has become the biggest refugee camp in the world.
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingyas, a mostly Muslim minority, as its citizens and considers them Bangladeshi immigrants, although Dhaka has also treated them as foreigners.