UN refugee agency’s Rohingya fund half a billion dollars short

UNHCR appeals for solidarity as it hosts with the US, UK and the EU a donor conference aimed at closing a ‘significant funding gap’.

Rohingya refugees walk back to their makeshift home after collecting relief supplies at the Kutupalong camp on Tuesday [Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

Less than half the $1bn in aid meant for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh this year has been raised and the lack of money has made it difficult for them to provide the food, basic healthcare and other support the Rohingya need, the UN refugee agency or UNHCR said on Thursday as it announced plans for a large donor conference next week.

The online event will take place on October 22 in an effort to close a “significant funding gap”, the UNHCR said.

“Solidarity with the Rohingya people means more than just meeting their basic needs,” Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.

“Refugees, like everyone else, have a right to a life of dignity and the chance to build a safe and stable future.”

In 2017, a brutal crackdown by the military forced some 750,000 Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh in violence that is now the subject of genocide charges against Myanmar at the UN’s top court at The Hague.

They joined an earlier wave of Rohingya who had fled earlier violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and were already living in camps close to the border.

About a million Rohingya refugees

With the latest displacement, there are now an estimated 860,000 Rohingya in camps in Cox’s Bazar, said to be the world’s largest refugee settlement.

As many as 150,000 Rohingya also live in other countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia, while an estimated 600,000 Rohingya continue to live inside Myanmar, including in camps set up by the government in Rakhine State.

Myanmar does not recognise the mostly Muslim Rohingya as citizens, even though the minority group has lived in the country for generations.


UNHCR said that the funds raised at next week’s event are expected to support “critical services” in communities that host the Rohingya.

The UN agency said that it will press for more “sustainable solutions” to the crisis, including the “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return” of the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

Janez Lenarcic, European commissioner for crisis management, said that the EU is committed to step up support to pledge further humanitarian and development assistance.

“The international community must strengthen its shared efforts towards reaching a sustainable solution – one that cultivates conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees,” she said in a statement.

Other countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia, are home to about 150,000 Rohingya refugees [File: Fachrul Reza/Barcroft Media via Getty Images]

The UNHCR did not say how much more money it hopes to raise at the conference.

The US and the UK have also expressed their commitment to the fundraising effort, but did not reveal how much they might pledge.

“As the world’s most generous donor, we are a catalyst for the international humanitarian response and call on others to contribute to this cause – both long-standing partners as well as new and aspiring donors,” US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E Biegun said.

UNHCR noted that the living conditions of the Rohingya refugees had been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, with the community at increased risk of infection because so many people were living in close proximity to each other.