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UN: Rohingya Refugee Crisis Could Turn Into Disaster Without More Help

Rohingya refugees queue for aid at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept. 26, 2017.
Rohingya refugees queue for aid at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept. 26, 2017.

The United Nations is warning the Rohingya humanitarian crisis unfolding in Bangladesh could turn into a humanitarian disaster without more money to scale up emergency operations. The U.N. reports an estimated 436,000 refugees fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar have gone to Bangladesh over the past month. Some aid agencies are putting the number at 480,000.

While the rate of new arrivals has declined, the U.N. says it has received reports of more people trying to cross the border from Myanmar. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the scale of the emergency is far greater than previously anticipated.

Officials say they are revising their initial response plan, which calls for anywhere from $77 million to $200 million to meet urgent needs over the next six months. U.N. refugee spokesman Adrian Edwards says the massive influx of people seeking safety is outpacing the ability of aid agencies to respond.

He told VOA the needs of the Rohingya are huge and aid must be increased urgently.

“If we do not see an urgent stepping up, people are not going to get what they need. The health risks are going to become all the more acute there. The ability to deal with people will not be sufficient. Shelter needs will not be sufficient. The number of latrines there will not be sufficient, which relates to the health and other needs. And, overall, people are going to suffer.”

Edwards appealed to the international community to respond urgently and generously to what he called the fastest accelerating refugee crisis in the world. He said a special effort must be made to support the most vulnerable refugees.

They include unaccompanied children, women, the elderly and disabled. He said they desperately need shelter, food, water and health care.