Nearly half a billion dollars in aid are needed for Rohingya Muslims, who have fled a government crackdown in Myanmar and have now sought refuge in Bangladesh, said human rights organizations that have been helping the displaced.
Some $434 million are needed over the next six months to help up to 1.2 million people, most of them children, in dire need of life-saving assistance, they added.
There are an estimated 809,000 Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh after fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, more than half a million of whom have arrived since August 25 to join 300,000 Rohingya who are already there.
“The Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar is highly vulnerable, many having experienced severe trauma, and are now living in extremely difficult conditions,” Robert Watkins, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said in a statement, referring to the area where most Rohingya are living.
Bangladesh and humanitarian organizations are struggling to help the 509,000 Rohingya who have arrived since attacks by Rohingya in August triggered a Myanmar military offensive that the United Nations has branded ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar rejects the accusation.
The aid agencies’ plan factors in the possibility of another 91,000 refugees arriving, as the influx continues, Watkins said.
“The plan targets 1.2 million people, including all Rohingya refugees, and 300,000 Bangladeshi host communities over the next six months,” he said.
Half a million people need food while 100,000 emergency shelters are required. More than half the refugees are children, while 24,000 pregnant women need maternity care, the agencies said.
“Massive and immediate scale-up is required to save lives,” they said. “Without immediate, adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, there will be disease outbreaks.”
The Rohingya are regarded as illegal immigrants in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and most are stateless.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced scathing criticism for not doing more to stop the violence, although she has no power over the security forces under a military-drafted constitution.
She has condemned rights abuses and said Myanmar was ready to start a process agreed with Bangladesh in 1993 under which anyone verified as a refugee would be accepted back.
But many Rohingya are pessimistic about their chances of going home, partly because few have official papers confirming their residency.
Human Rights Watch said it had found evidence that the Myanmar military had summarily executed dozens of Rohingya in a village called Maung Nu in Rakhine state, on August 27.
The rights group said it had spoken to 14 survivors and witnesses who were now refugees in Bangladesh. They described how soldiers entered a compound where people had gathered in fear of military retaliation.
“They took several dozen Rohingya men and boys into the courtyard and then shot or stabbed them to death. Others were killed as they tried to flee,” said the rights group, which has accused Myanmar of crimes against humanity.
Spokesmen for the government, the military and police did not answer their telephones and were not available for comment. Wednesday is a holiday in Myanmar.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.
The UN committees for women’s and children’s rights called on Myanmar’s authorities on Wednesday to immediately stop violence in northern Rakhine state.
“We are particularly worried about the fate of Rohingya women and children subject to serious violations of their human rights, including killings, rape and forced displacement,” the committees on the elimination of discrimination against women and on the rights of the child said in a statement.
“Such violations may amount to crimes against humanity and we are deeply concerned at the state’s failure to put an end to these shocking human rights violations being committed at the behest of the military and other security forces.”
The United States and Britain have warned that the crisis risked derailing Myanmar’s progress in its transition to democracy after decades of military rule.