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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Nations pledge $335 million to Rohingya refugees

The UN called the donations an "encouraging" step in the response to the intensifying crisis

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims, like these children seen at the Kutupalong camp near Cox's Bazar, have fled violence in Myanmar since late August. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims, like these children seen at the Kutupalong camp near Cox's Bazar, have fled violence in Myanmar since late August. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Nations have pledged to spend $335 million to help the more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh since August, the United Nations said on Monday.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi cited the figure after an emergency conference in Geneva aimed primarily at supporting a $434 million appeal from UN agencies to help the minority Muslim group.

A group of nations had also offered $50 million of in-kind donations.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock called the haul "encouraging" and praised donors who "expressed their solidarity and compassion with the families and communities in need". He added that he expected more commitments in the coming days.

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Mr Lowcock stressed the importance of countries actually delivering the cash, with the UN having confronted unfulfilled pledges in past crises.

"Pledges are one thing," he told reporters. "It's really important to us that the pledges are translated as soon as possible into contributions."

Among the 35 nations and blocs that promised funds were Britain ($63 million) the EU ($42 million), the United States ($38 million) and Sweden ($24 million), according to the UN.

The UAE pledged $7 million, according to a tweet on Monday by Princess Haya, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

UK international development secretary Priti Patel called the wave of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar “the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis”.

She added: “Our further support announced today will relieve the suffering of thousands. Ethnic cleansing, sexual violence, starvation and the murder of children have no place in our world.

“Today’s pledges are only just the start, and the world cannot afford to wait as innocent men, women and children continue to lose their lives.”

With no apparent resolution to the crisis in sight, Mr Lowcock noted that there may be a need to raise more funds again next year.

Rohingya refugees have headed for Bangladesh in huge numbers since late August after militant attacks on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine sparked a major army crackdown on the community likened to ethnic cleansing by the UN.

Rohingyas have been systematically deprived of basic rights over decades in majority Buddhist Myanmar.

In the latest crackdown, Myanmar's security forces have fired indiscriminately on unarmed civilians, including children, and committed widespread sexual violence, according to UN investigators.

Speaking ahead of Monday’s conference in Geneva, Oxfam warned that more funds are desperately needed to help Rohingya women and girls who have fled rape and violence.

The group said that there are now more than 120,000 pregnant women and mothers with new babies who are among those struggling to survive in cramped camps that are ill-equipped to deal with their needs.

Of the 120,000 women, many are pregnant teenagers and victims of rape.

It warned that only a quarter (26 per cent) of the UN's emergency humanitarian appeal has been delivered so far. With hundreds of thousands more people fleeing over the border, it said more money to plug this funding gap is vital.

In addition to providing clean water and food, Oxfam is providing dignity kits which include sanitary towels, baskets, torches, and soap for women and girls.