U.N. Says Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Will Soon Exceed 1 Million

Newly arrived Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh at an informal settlement.
Adam Dean for The New York Times

The Bangladesh population of Rohingya Muslims who have fled deadly persecution in neighboring Myanmar will soon exceed one million and the crisis shows no sign of easing, the United Nations said on Monday.

The assessments came during an emergency donors conference in Geneva to raise money for aid groups struggling to help Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, deal with the Rohingya crisis.

Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, called the health conditions of the refugee encampments a “time bomb.”

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have battled terror, exhaustion and hunger to reach safety in Bangladesh since Myanmar’s army began a campaign of what the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing in late August. The new arrivals joined more than 300,000 Rohingya who had escaped in recent years.

The number of people crossing the Naf River that divides the two countries has slowed to around 1,000 to 3,000 a day, down from a peak of 12,000 to 18,000 a day earlier in the crisis, said William Lacy Swing, the director of the International Organization for Migration, a part of the United Nations.

Still, he said, “even at that rate the numbers are expected to exceed a million shortly.”

Edouard Beigbeder, the Unicef representative to Bangladesh, said that the crisis had shown “no sign of abating” and that the refugees’ needs were “increasing at a much faster pace than our capacity to respond.”

More than 300,000 children are among the Rohingya refugees. Mark Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, told reporters that many were acutely malnourished.

States had previously committed around $116 million toward the $430 million sought by the United Nations for humanitarian aid over the next six months. Pledges received from governments on Monday raised the total to about $340 million, Mr. Lowcock said, expressing confidence that additional contributions would flow in coming days.

Even so, humanitarian agencies face enormous challenges delivering relief. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were crammed on a strip of land that lacked roads or infrastructure to support the delivery of aid.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Nick Cumming-Bruce