Tensions between Rohingyas, hosts on rise: UN

Mohiuddin Alamgir | Published: 00:19, Oct 08,2018 | Updated: 00:21, Oct 08,2018


People walk in a field in front of Bangladesh's Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar. — AFP file photo

The United Nations said on Sunday that conditions at Rohingya camps remain extremely precarious while tension between the forcibly displaced ethnic minority people of Myanmar and the host communities in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh was on the rise.
UN agencies came up with the observations in the mid-term review of their Joint Response Plan for Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis March–December 2018 released on Sunday.
Conditions at Rohingya camps remain extremely precarious, with congested living spaces and the potential for natural disasters creating serious risks, including disease outbreaks, fire and safety and security issues, it said.
It also said that since March, a small but notable increase in incidents of violence and tensions had been observed between Rohingyas and host communities.
‘Since the release of the JRP, social cohesion between refugees and host communities has also become a growing concern, requiring us to recalibrate our activities to ensure it reaches all affected people, refugees and Bangladeshis,’ UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo, UNHCR Bangladesh representative James Lynch and International Organisation for Migration Bangladesh chief of mission Giorgi Gigauri said in the forwarding of the mid-term review.
‘Worries are growing among local people over the presence of a huge number of Rohingyas at Ukhia and Teknaf where Bangladeshis are not minority,’ Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Abu Morshed Chowdhury told New Age on Sunday.
‘Increasing crimes at Rohingyas at camps also raise worries,’ he added.
‘They [Rohingyas] are negatively affecting the environment, tourism business, economy, market price, transport cost,’ says Abu Morshed Chowdhury, also co-chair of Cox’s Bazar CSO-NGO Forum, a combine of Cox’s Bazar civil society and NGOs.
‘Tension triggering some stray incidents between Rohingyas and local communities, but these are not alarming,’ Cox’s Bazar refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said.
‘We are aware of the facts and working on how these incidents can be stopped. Giving ear to the concern of losses of host communities, we have kept aside one fourth assistance planned in the joint response plan,’ Abul Kalam said.
The mid-term review, quoting a survey, said that of host community members, 85 per cent stated that they did not feel safe having Rohingyas nearby, 90 per cent perceived that the influx led to an increase in the cost of living, 73.5 per cent said that it increased in traffic and road accidents and 53 per cent saw an increase in crimes.
In March, UN agencies and international NGO partners released the 2018 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis, a $951 million appeal to meet the urgent needs Rohingyas and more than 330,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis till December.
Since August 25, 2017, more than 7.28 lakh Rohingyas, fleeing violence and systemic discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, have found shelter and safety in Cox’s Bazar.
They have joined an estimated 4 lakh Rohingyas from previous waves of influx fuelled by intimidation by Myanmar government and army since 1978.
An unprecedented number of Rohingyas fled their homes in Rakhine State after Myanmar military launched a crackdown claiming that Rohingya rebels had attacked border posts.
Following the Rohingya influx, areas previously inhabited by wild elephants in Cox’s Bazar became barren. The lush, green, hilly landscape rapidly turned into town of tents as far as the eye can see.
The number of Rohingyas at Teknaf and Ukhia upazilas became almost thrice the number of Bangladeshis there, 4.7 lakh.
Conditions at camps remain extremely precarious, with congested living spaces and the potential for natural disasters creating serious risks, including disease outbreaks, fires, and safety and security issues, says the mid-term review.
‘In the remaining period of the joint response plan, efforts therefore need to be enhanced. In coordination with and support for the government’s leadership we need to increase the funding to the JRP and listen to the refugees and host communities closely to ensure that their needs,’ the review said.
It said that only 28 per cent of funding of $951 million requested by the United Nations for the response plan was received.
It also said that maintaining food assistance was a critical need. Strengthening refugee’s shelters is an urgent need to improve resilience to weather, and to improve protection. Safe shelters are currently a concern for 48 per cent of Rohingyas. Only half of people in need of trauma counselling and mental health interventions are estimated to have access to such services
For WASH, access to clean water remains a critical need with impact on health and nutrition outcomes and construction of piped water networks must get underway, said the review.
It said that 33 per cent of the affected population did not have access to a safe source of water.
To meet minimum standards, 8,000 more latrines need to be built, but there is no space for more construction, the mid-term review said. 

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