UN aid cut to Rohingya must be urgently reversed

UN aid cut to Rohingya must be urgently reversed

The UN’s recent decision to reduce aid to the Rohingya is a devastating blow to their already precarious circumstances (AFP)
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The recent decision by the UN to reduce aid to the Rohingya is a devastating blow to their already precarious circumstances. This cutback will inevitably exacerbate the suffering of a vulnerable population that has already endured unimaginable horrors. The reduction in healthcare services will lead to increased mortality rates, particularly among children and the elderly. The lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities will expose the Rohingya to diseases, posing a significant risk to public health in the already overcrowded camps. Educational programs will also suffer, denying children the opportunity for a brighter future.

Moreover, the aid cut sends a disheartening message to the Rohingya community, who have already experienced a lack of international support and attention. It undermines their hope for justice, amplifies their feelings of abandonment and perpetuates their statelessness. This decision risks further entrenching their marginalized status and perpetuating cycles of poverty and despair.

The international community has a moral obligation to support the Rohingya people in their time of need. By cutting aid, the UN risks undermining its own mandate to protect and uphold human rights. Member states must take immediate action to pressure the UN and other humanitarian organizations to reverse this decision and restore essential aid to the Rohingya population. Diplomatic efforts should be intensified to engage with the Myanmar government and demand an end to the persecution and discrimination faced by the Rohingya.

Additionally, it is essential to address the root causes of the crisis. The international community should exert diplomatic and economic pressure on Myanmar to promote accountability and justice for the atrocities committed against the Rohingya. Steps must be taken to ensure the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya to their homes with full rights and protections.

This decision risks further entrenching their marginalized status and perpetuating cycles of poverty and despair

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

The decision to cut UN aid to the Rohingya population is an affront to our shared humanity and a betrayal of our responsibility to protect the vulnerable. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering and injustice faced by the Rohingya. It is imperative that we act swiftly to reverse this decision, restore essential aid and work toward a lasting resolution to the crisis. Only by doing so can we uphold the fundamental principles of human rights, promote justice and offer hope for a brighter future to the Rohingya people.

The recent reduction in food rations by the UN World Food Programme for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is piling further pressure on already vulnerable populations. The cuts, from $12 per month to a mere $8, are pushing refugees toward returning to perilous conditions in Myanmar. UN special rapporteurs have warned that these reductions will inevitably lead to increased rates of malnutrition, infant mortality, violence and even death. The desperate circumstances may force some refugees to risk their lives at sea rather than face hunger and potential death in the overcrowded camps.

This is not the first time that food ration cuts have accompanied efforts to coerce Rohingya refugees into leaving. Back in 1978, the Bangladesh government weaponized food to compel starving Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar, where persecution awaited them. History now seems to be repeating itself, as Rohingya refugees are once again confined to camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with no permission to work. Their survival depends solely on food rations.

It is crucial for international donors, as well as Bangladesh, to learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

A report by Alan C. Lindquist, former head of the UN Refugee Agency’s Sub-office in Cox’s Bazar, revealed the dire situation in 1979. The report quoted Bangladesh’s then-secretary of the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation, Syed All Khasru, who stated that the government would not make the refugees “so comfortable that they won’t go back to (Myanmar).” The conditions in the camps were devastating, with 80 to 85 people dying daily by December 1978. The terrible circumstances drove a significant number of Rohingya to go back to escape the suffering, with more than 2,000 returning every three days, as stipulated in an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Tragically, more than 11,900 Rohingya lost their lives, while another 107,000 were forced to return to Myanmar.

In the present context, the World Food Programme is making these cuts due to donor shortfalls. It is crucial for international donors, as well as Bangladesh, to learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Myanmar is still far from being a safe haven for the Rohingya. Both the international community and Bangladesh have a responsibility to address this crisis. Bangladesh should ease restrictions on the refugees, allowing them to earn money to purchase food and prevent another tragic death toll.

The current situation demands urgent action from all stakeholders involved. The UN must prioritize securing adequate funding to restore full food rations for the Rohingya refugees. International donors should step forward and fulfill their obligations to ensure the basic human rights and well-being of the Rohingya population. Bangladesh, while hosting a significant number of refugees, must show compassion and empathy by lifting restrictions on their ability to work. By empowering the refugees to support themselves and purchase food, Bangladesh can help prevent further suffering and loss of life.

It is essential to recognize the long-term implications of the aid cuts and the potential consequences they hold for the Rohingya population. The international community, donor countries and Bangladesh must collaborate to find sustainable solutions that address the root causes of the crisis and ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of the Rohingya people. Only through collective efforts can we strive toward justice, human rights and a brighter future for the Rohingya community.

  • Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is director of special initiatives at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington, DC, and the author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Genocide” (Hurst, 2017).

Twitter: @AzeemIbrahim

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