The EU has pledged €30 million as the UN holds a fundraising conference to aid Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar. More than 600,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh amid persecution at home.
The European Commission on Monday promised to give €30 million ($35 million) as the United Nations opened a fundraising conference in Geneva that aims to secure some of the $434 million sought by February 2018 for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
“We need more money to keep pace with intensifying needs. This is not an isolated crisis, it is the latest round in a decades-long cycle of persecution, violence and displacement,” the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, said during the pledging conference.
By midday, Lowcock estimated that that the UN had secured some $340 million in pledges.
More than 600,000 people from the Muslim minority group, over half of them children, have fled to neighboring Bangladesh from Myanmar’s northern state of Rakhine since August amid a military crackdown on the community.
The latest influx has brought the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to an estimated 900,000.
Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the meeting his country was facing an “untenable situation.” He said the Bangladeshi government was negotiating with Myanmar on the issue, but that Myanmar continued to insist that Rohingya were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Rohingya themselves maintain that they are indigenous to western Rakhine, with roots reaching back over a thousand years.
“Despite claims to the contrary, violence in Rakhine state has not stopped. Thousands still enter on a daily basis,” Ahsan said.
The one-day conference in Switzerland is being co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, which pledged $15 million.
New pledges throughout the day included 12 million pounds ($15.8 million) from the UK and 10 million Australian dollars ($7.8 million) from Australia.
“We are here today because, sadly, the needs are even greater than we can provide with our current resources,” Elisabeth Rasmusson, the deputy chief of the World Food Program, told the conference.
“Oh behalf of the people we are trying to help, we must ask you for more.”
Lowcock also urged for Myanmar to allow “full humanitarian access across Rakhine” where aid agencies have been blocked from entering.
The UN has said that Myanmar government troops and ethnic Rakhine Buddist monks have been carrying out a campaign of killings, arson and rape since late August that is tantamount to ethnic cleansing.