Finland, in late September, allocated EUR 380,000 to the Red Cross to support its humanitarian aid in Bangladesh, along the border with Myanmar. More than 420,000 Rohingya had up until then, and during just one month, fled violence from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to the neighbouring country.
Most of the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar are women and children. They are living in extremely difficult conditions and are in dire need of food, clean water, shelter, basic supplies, and healthcare.
“Medical aid, especially, must be arranged urgently for these people, who have been driven out of their homes, to prevent their situation from getting even worse. Many have been forced to travel long distances in difficult conditions. There is a true need for the field hospital the Finnish Red Cross is supplying. At the same time we need to draw more attention to the human rights issues in the region to prevent a similar crisis,” said Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen.
The Rakhine state has a long history of violence. Tensions flared into conflict in 2012 and escalated again in October 2016. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the region after the armed conflict on 25 August and sought refuge across the border in Bangladesh.
The UN has estimated that the treatment of Rohingya amounts to ethnic cleansing, and the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has demanded Myanmar to suspend military action against Rohingya.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (IFRC) made an emergency appeal to help the refugees. Finland’s support will be channelled through the Finnish Red Cross, which will be sending a field hospital and aid workers to Bangladesh together with the Norwegian Red Cross. The Red Cross can act swiftly and efficiently in the region because of its highly-developed international cooperation network and expertise. Since December 2016 the Bangladesh Red Crescent and the International Red Cross have been helping Rohingya seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
Another challenge for the aid operation is that Bangladesh refuses to call the fleeing Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh classifies Rohingya as Myanmar citizens travelling without official documents, while Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants who have no civil rights.
Sources: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, International Red Cross