Representatives of a number of donor countries and international organisations gathered at the Palais des Nations in Geneva today with the aim of mobilising funds to support the humanitarian response to the Rohingya refugee crisis. Since August this year, more than half a million people have fled violence in Rhakine State in western Myanmar and sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. Left completely destitute, these people, many of whom are women and children, are in an extremely precarious situation. Despite the solidarity and generosity shown by the people of Bangladesh, there are still enormous needs in terms of protection, water, food and sanitation. Living in makeshift camps, the Rohingya refugees are also exposed to the violent storms that have wreaked havoc throughout the region.
To address the growing needs engendered by this crisis, Switzerland has decided to increase its assistance in Bangladesh to CHF 8 million. The Humanitarian Aid Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has already donated almost half this sum to operations run by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Food Programme (WFP) and various NGOs. Last month, it also delivered tents and other emergency supplies to the Cox’s Bazar region, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are now living. Three experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit are helping the IOM and UNICEF to set up reception centres and install sanitation facilities and systems for distributing drinking water.
In Myanmar – and specifically in Rhakine State – Switzerland has increased its humanitarian assistance by CHF 4.47 million since the end of 2016. Its activities have enabled thousands of people to regain access to drinking water, food, healthcare, public infrastructure and safe shelters. Furthermore, an expert from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit is helping the UNHCR contribute to the protection of those still living in Rakhine State.
Myanmar and Bangladesh are both SDC priority countries. Switzerland’s humanitarian activities there supplement the cooperation programmes it runs in areas such as food security, health, local governance, vocational education and training, building community infrastructures and promoting market access and private sector development.
Switzerland has also been supporting Myanmar in its transition to democracy and peace since 2012. It remains deeply concerned by reports of serious human rights violations and by the security and humanitarian situation in Rakhine State. It condemns the attacks of 25 August on some thirty police stations as well as the systematic destruction of villages throughout northern Rakhine State by government forces in response to these attacks. It calls upon the government of Myanmar to fully respect its obligations under international law, particularly to prevent all human rights violations and abuses, and to ensure that the perpetrators of such violations are brought to justice, thus creating the conditions essential for the refugees' return. It also urges the government to facilitate and guarantee rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian aid and protection for all communities, without discrimination.
Lastly, Switzerland urges the government of Myanmar to immediately move forward with implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, chaired by Kofi Annan, to enable the population to return to the path of peace and inclusive development.
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