By Sairah Masud
BRITAIN will double the £2 million of public donations to the Rohingya crisis, in addition to £3m already matched, secretary of state for international development, Priti Patel, announced last Thursday (12).
Patel said the money raised would make a “significant difference” to refugees forced to flee their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. They are being accommodated in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where British aid workers have been providing relief.
“This crisis is unprecedented; we have seen nearly half a million people flee their homes because they have been persecuted by the Burmese military. Women and children have come with nothing but the clothes on their back, so we are responding by providing food, shelter, water – the life-saving basics that people desperately need right now,” Patel said.
“The generosity of the British public and the speed in which they have responded to this appeal is overwhelming. Every penny raised is making a significant difference for victims and the UK government is working at every level to ensure that lifesaving aid reaches those in dire need right now.”
The British public has so far raised £9m for the crisis, which has seen over half a million people flee from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since August. Patel made the announcement as she met UK aid workers at the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) in London.
Thirteen UK charities, in association with the DEC, have been on the ground providing emergency food and relief in the six-month appeal. Their efforts will help 30,000 refugees, among them more than 3,000 malnourished children and pregnant women.
A spokesperson for the DEC said: “The money raised is a drop in the ocean, but nonetheless we are working very close with our member agencies. We are reaching people most in need and our aim is that funding is used as effectively as possible.
“The challenges are huge – agencies are working closely to make sure that they secure the right type of authorisation and work permits from Cox’s Bazar. The Bangladesh government is fast tracking the applications, but we want to continue to strengthen the sense of solidarity across the British public and government.”
Aid workers meeting Patel at the DEC included the British Red Cross, Action Aid, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save The Children. They described the current state of the refugee camps as “harrowing” and a “logistical nightmare” with less than 20 per cent of refugees having received food aid.
The inter-agency response plan that covers humanitarian needs from now until February has a budget of £434m to help with the crisis. The Bangladeshi army has intervened to provide more coordinated efforts in providing relief.
An aid worker form Save The Children said: “There has been improvement in terms of organisation. It was very chaotic before – people were stampeded by elephants and five children who were running for food were killed by cars. One of the big issues going forward is what will happen once the military pull out and how the camps will function in the long run.”
Patel has been in discussions with foreign secretary Boris Johnson and other ministers in exerting pressure on Burmese authorities in ending the persecution and allowing full humanitarian access to the communities affected.
“The number one call we have within the international community is to stop the violence and persecution which is in the hands of the Burmese government and military and we have been very strong in our language in terms of their actions.
“The essential thing that we as human beings should do is provide the care and support they need at this awful time,” Patel said.