THE concern that the Inter Sector Coordination Group expressed about the Rohingya response running the risk of being severely underfunded is gravely worrying. If the humanitarian response, which is reported to have so far been successful, for more than one million Rohingyas who fled persecution by Myanmar’s security forces in their homeland of Rakhine State — more than 700,000 in the past one year and about 400,000 in phases since the late 1970s — and sheltered in Bangladesh, remains underfunded, it would further jeopardise the Rohingyas, now regarded as the world’s most persecuted community, living in camps in Cox’s Bazar. A situation like this entails that Bangladesh should appeal to the international community at the highest level while it still mounts pressure on Myanmar for a safe, sustainable, voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas to their homeland. The head of the Inter Sector Coordination Group, in the presence of a high-level delegation of ambassadors and representatives of more than a dozen of countries, says that only 39 per cent of the response has so far been funded while $579 million more is required to meet the urgent needs of the Rohingyas and the local host communities until the end of the year.
Added to this, there have been concerns that funding for critical programmes would end in February 2019, putting life-saving services at risk. There are fears that without the critical funding, essential services might need to be pared back, health and well-being of the vulnerable population, four-fifths of whom are children and women, might need to be compromised. The Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance, with 860,000 depending on food aid each month. It is reported that the food security sector is still in need of $66 million to support the Rohingyas through to March 2019. But all the funding estimates are focused on short-term crisis resolution. If the protracted crisis of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh is further prolonged, given the failure of the international community to make Myanmar agree and execute a safe and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas, the need for funding might soar. But for the basic needs, education also remains a big challenge, with about 55 per cent of pre-primary and primary learners and 98 per cent of the adolescent still lacking access to quality education. Bangladesh has certainly rendered its services to humanity by readily sheltering the Rohingyas persecuted by Myanmar’s murderous army, but it is for the international community, including the United Nations, to attend to the humanitarian assistance that the Rohingyas are in need of.
The international community must remember that it needs to keep the Rohingya crisis at the forefront and it must fund the response it has made. While Bangladesh must continue having negotiations, bilateral, regional and international, to mount pressure on Myanmar for a safe and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas, it must negotiate funding the Rohingya response with the international community, which should understand that it is not enough only to talk but it must walk the talk.