The U.N. refugee agency is seeking $943 million to provide life-saving assistance for more than 880,000 Rohingya refugees and 472,000 Bangladeshis in the communities hosting them. Most of the refugees, some 740,000, fled violence and persecution in Myanmar in 2017.
They since have been living in squalid, overcrowded settlements in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. U.N. refugee spokesman Andrej Mahecic said they remain vulnerable, faced with an uncertain future.
"With the refugee crisis in its fourth year, Bangladesh needs robust and sustained international support to ensure safety and well-being of stateless Rohingya refugees," he said, ahead of next week's donor conference. "This must not become a forgotten crisis. Both Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh, having generously hosted them for decades, must see the world standing with them."
Mahecic said the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded vulnerabilities for refugees and host communities. So far, he said, the government and aid agencies have managed to prevent the disease from spreading widely throughout the camps and surrounding area.
However, he noted that the course of the disease is unpredictable, so it is critical that humanitarian aid and protection services are continued.
He said refugees, like other people, need more than the bare necessities to survive, and they cannot be allowed to languish for years without the prospect of a decent and meaningful future.
"In order to mitigate the risks of people taking dangerous onward journeys, more must be done to ensure that refugees have hope in Bangladesh, and of a future back home in Myanmar. Otherwise, they may increasingly risk such journeys by land or sea to find a solution elsewhere," Mahecic said.
It appears unlikely the Rohingya refugees will be able to return home soon, as Myanmar is living through a political and social crisis. Since the military junta ousted the democratically elected government on February 1, Myanmar has been in a state of turbulence, with the civilian population under siege by the authorities.
Last year's $1 billion United Nations appeal for Rohingya refugees was less than 60 percent funded. U.N. officials are hoping for a better result this year.