Human flood of Rohingya tell of 5-day trek to safety

A Rohingya ethnic minority refugee from Myanmar carries a child in a sack and walks through rice fields after crossing over to the Bangladesh side of the border near Cox's Bazar's Teknaf area on Sept. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Updated 07 September 2017

Human flood of Rohingya tell of 5-day trek to safety

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh/ANKARA: At times, it resembles a flash flood — not of water, but of humanity. On the banks of the River Naf that separates Myanmar from Bangladesh, the Rohingya refugees pour in by the thousand, day and night, hungry, dehydrated and exhausted.
No one even knows how many there are. The UN refugee agency estimates nearly 150,000. Local officials in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar believe it is nearer 200,000. All have fled bloodshed and persecution in Rakhine state in Myanmar, and many possess only the clothes they stand up in.
“It reminds me of the time of independence in 1971, when we fled to India to save our lives from the Pakistani military,” says Abdur Rahman, 70, a local farmer.
“The Rohingya refugees are compelled to rush to the Bangladesh border with the minimum amount of luggage and kitchen utensils. Sometimes, they arrive completely empty handed.”
Mohammad Nurul Amin, 32, a grocery shop owner in the village of Miajong in Rakhine, walked for five days with 14 members of his family, just to reach safety. The journey has already cost him the equivalent of $73, a large sum of money in rural Myanmar
“This amount was taken by the boatmen, since the family had to cross two rivers and a canal,” he says.
The situation in Rakhine, Amin said, is desperate. “There is not a single house in my locality which was not set ablaze by the Myanmar army. Young men were slaughtered brutally and piles of dead bodies were torched by petrol bombs. It had become hell.”

Turkey extends a helping hand
Turkey, meanwhile, extended a helping hand to the Muslim minority on humanitarian and diplomatic platforms.
Following the telephone discussion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Su Kyi on Monday, Myanmar allowed Turkish aid agency (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency/TIKA) to distribute 1,000 tons of aid to Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin announced.
Kalin also said that Turkey plans to deliver aid initially to 100,000 families in coordination with the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
TIKA will be the first foreign agency to distribute aid to the Rohingya Muslims despite Myanmar government’s doubts about the international aid organizations that were accused by Kyi of helping terrorism in the country.
On the diplomatic front, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkey’s First Lady Emine Erdogan are expected to visit Cox’s Bazar district to observe the on-site situation of thousands of Rohingya who have taken shelter there.

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 41 min 59 sec ago

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”