Switzerland has announced additional money to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, taking its total contribution to CHF8 million ($8.1 million). The United Nations in Geneva hosted a pledging conference on Monday to seek support for what it calls the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world.
The Swiss foreign ministry said on Mondayexternal link it was increasing its aid budget to CHF8 million to meet the growing humanitarian needs of Rohingya Muslim refugees. More than 600,000 – 60% of them children – have fled violence and insecurity in the northern Rakhine State in Myanmar since August 25, when the UN says the Myanmar army began a campaign of ethnic cleansing following insurgent attacks.
The refugee population in neighbouring Bangladeshi regions has now expanded to 809,000. Most Rohingya are stateless in Myanmar and many fled without papers.
“In view of the gigantic humanitarian needs, we’ve mobilised very quickly,” Switzerland’s top aid official, Manuel Bessler, told reporters in Geneva. “Ahead of my visit to Bangladesh three weeks ago we proposed CHF4 million. Afterwards, we talked about what more we could do, so we’ve mobilised CHF4 million in new money. On the other side of the border in Myanmar’s Rakhine State we’ve had an operation for some time and there we have a budget of CHF4.7 million.”
The Swiss money is going towards funding emergency operations by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Food Programme (WFP) and various NGOs.
Last month, Switzerland also delivered tents and other emergency supplies, and three experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unitexternal link are helping the IOM and UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, to set up reception centres and install sanitation facilities and systems for distributing drinking water.