Myanmar refugees crisis is far from over, says UN emergency relief chief

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Rohingya refugees reaching out for food donations at Kutupalong Makeshift Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Brown

The more than half a million people who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in recent weeks need a greater level of help from the international community as the exodus continues, the UN's new Emergency Relief Coordinator said on Friday.

Speaking in Geneva, Mark Lowcock called the situation the world's fastest growing refugee crisis – and "one of the most heart-rending".

It was sparked by a security operation in Myanmar's Rakhine state after attacks by militants in late August.

Daniel Johnson has more

Briefing journalists, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs described meeting victims of the violence in Myanmar that had forced them to flee to southern Bangladesh.

In one relief centre, Mark Lowcock met an 11-year-old boy who was cradling his critically ill baby sister.

Both had fled their home in Rakhine state, Mr Lowcock said:

"His mother, the boy and his four siblings had set off on a journey lasting I think nine days, fleeing violence and the burning of their village. The mother died on the journey. This little boy is now in sole charge of his four siblings, including his two-and-a-half-year-old severely acutely malnourished sister."

The UN official also met women who described how they were forced to watch as their husbands were gunned down in front of them.

After appealing for the violence to stop, Mr Lowcock also called for immediate international aid access to northern Rakhine state.

He added that conditions needed to be put in place for the safe return of the refugees.

But in the meantime, the priority is scaling up aid to those who need it in Bangladesh.

Ahead of a pledging conference planned in Geneva later this month, Mr Lowcock said that US $434 million will be required in the coming months.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’15″


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