Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar need to be relocated ahead of rains: UN chief
United Nations: About 1.5 lakh Rohingya refugees, who fled violence in Myanmar to settle in crowded camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, are living in flood-prone areas and must be relocated ahead of the coming rainy season, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.
"In relation to Cox's Bazar, the monsoon is the biggest concern. We believe that about 150,000 people are in areas that are flood-prone or can be negatively impacted by the monsoon in a dangerous way for the people," he told reporters here yesterday.
The UN chief was responding to a question on the need to relocate the Rohingya refugees currently living in camps in the border town of Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.
Guterres said he has had the opportunity to discuss with the Bangladesh government the best way to relocate these people. "And I think the best way to relocate these people is in higher areas that can be outside... Treated to accommodate this group that, of course, is extremely vulnerable to the monsoon," he said.
He added that on-ground officials of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and other agencies will be talking with the Bangladesh authorities on the issue. "We believe the higher ground is the best place for this kind of relocation," he said.
When asked why has he not yet appointed a special adviser on Myanmar, Guterres said he has been conducting a number of consultations for that appointment.
"I hope it will come soon. It is not an easy function that everyone is ready to accept, but I'm sure that we will have a solution soon," he said.
Veteran Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar had served as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Special Adviser on Myanmar from 2010 till December 2016. Guterres is yet to name his successor.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation appealed to the international community to contribute generously to enable appropriate and timely health services to the Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar, now facing grave risks to their lives and health in view of the coming rainy season.
"This is one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in recent times. No single agency or the government of Bangladesh alone can meet the massive health needs of such a large population group," WHO South-East Asia Regional Director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said at a meeting of partners in Dhaka.
WHO said the country's health sector is grossly underfunded to meet the needs of 1.3 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar.
"The Rohingya population are settled in an area that is prone to cyclone and a terrain that would be flooded as soon as rains begin. The risk of outbreak of life threatening water and vector-borne diseases under such conditions is huge," Singh said.
Coordinating the work of over a 100 partners on the ground along with the Ministry of Health, WHO has facilitated the contingency plan for the rainy season and coordinated a simulation around it. The plan aims at continuity of health services during rains and floods to minimise the risk of disease and deaths among the affected population.
Since August 2017, nearly 700,000 minority Muslim Rohingyas have fled violence in Myanmar across the border into Bangaldesh's Cox's Bazar, joining several hundred thousand more that were already settled there in overcrowded camps.
Since the start of the Rohingya crisis, 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine were administered to the refugees and their host communities, in addition to two vaccination campaigns for measles and three for diphtheria, which concluded earlier this week with WHO support.
"However, much of the health sector's capacity to respond depends on availability of resources," Singh said.
Moreover, the vulnerable population will need continued services for reproductive, maternal and child health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as psychosocial support, the WHO Regional Director noted.
The WHO has appealed to partners for USD 16.5 million for continued support in 2018, which is part of the USD 113.1 million being sought by all health partners under the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya crisis.