Supplementary Appeal – Myanmar Refugee Emergency Response in Bangladesh, March – December 2018
In the fastest growing refugee exodus that the world has witnessed in decades, some 671,000 refugees fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State in less than six months starting in August 2017.
The new arrivals joined more than 200,000 refugees from Myanmar already in the country, mainly in the District of Cox's Bazaar, bringing the total to approximately 900,000. With some 602,400 refugees in the Kutupalong-Balukhali site, it is now the largest refugee settlement in the world.
The "Rohingya refugee crisis", as it is commonly referred to, has now slowed as compared with the pace and magnitude of 2017. Refugees are, however, still arriving from Myanmar into Bangladesh, some 3,236 in February 2018 alone.
More than three quarters of the refugees are women and children. Against a background of decades of discrimination and effective statelessness, they have suffered severe violence, rape and psychological trauma in security operations initiated in the northern part of Rakhine State following attacks on security posts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. In addition to the imbedded protection and psycho-social problems, refugees found themselves in conditions of severe crowding and squalor, and with shelter, food and nutrition, water, health, and sanitation conditions that stressed, to the very extreme, what were already stretched national and host community services and capacities.
Supported by several agencies including UNHCR, the Government of Bangladesh mounted a response to save lives, met the acute protection and humanitarian needs, and stabilized the overall situation. In October 2017, agency actors, 25 in total, launched the Rohingya Refugee Crisis Response Plan in which they sought $434 million to support their interventions for the period of September 2017 to February 2018.
UNHCR declared an internal Level 3 Emergency—its highest level of alert—for the crisis and, drawing on the relevant components of the Response Plan, issued a Supplementary Appeal in which it presented financial requirements of $83.7 million.
The overall response has forged ahead since then and critical protection, shelter, water, sanitation, health, nutrition and other needs have been addressed. Extensive physical, structural, infrastructural and engineering works have been undertaken to organize settlements and establish access and other public service networks. UNHCR has made its largest deployment of its organizational emergency response capacities, and dramatically upped its coordination and operational footprint on the ground.
As the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar started to discuss and work out arrangements for the return of the refugees to Myanmar, UNHCR engaged with both to underscore the imperatives of any returns being voluntary, in safety and dignity, sustainable, and with international humanitarian presence and monitoring.
Nevertheless, serious challenges remain. Notably, the looming monsoon season has sparked new urgency both to avoid and prepare for the impact that the expected flooding and landslides will have on an estimated 150,000 refugees, even while continuing to consolidate the wider response.
The agency actors have thus followed the initial Response Plan with a Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis which was launched in Geneva on 16 March 2018, seeking $950.8 million to cover their activities from March to December 2018.
In this Supplementary Appeal, UNHCR outlines its strategy, planning, operational and programmatic activities as part of that response, and for which the total financial requirement amounts to $238 million for 2018.