UN envoy for political solution to Rohingya crisis

The obligation we’ve as a global society is immense, says Unicef executive director

UN envoy for political solution to Rohingya crisis

Photo: Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore speaks at the press conference.

Dhaka, Feb 27 : UN Secretary General’s Humanitarian Envoy Dr Ahmed Al Meraikhi on Wednesday laid emphasis on working together to find a political solution to Rohingya crisis saying humanitarian aid or action is not the only solution.

“I think it’s very important to have a political solution…we have to work together,” he told reporters at a press conference in a city hotel insisting humanitarian aid or actions can only mitigate the sufferings of the people.

Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore also spoke at the press conference that was arranged following their two-day joint mission to Cox’s Bazar on February 25-26.

Unicef Bangladesh is appealing for $152 million in 2019 to provide 685,000 Rohingyas and host community residents with critical support. As of February, they are 29 percent funded against their appeal.

Acknowledging the absence of required conditions for Rohingya repatriation, Fore said it is very important for the United Nations to have a stance that there is a safe and dignified return for Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

“We’re working publicly and privately in all the agencies in the United Nations to try to make this (conducive environment for the return of Rohingyas) happen,” she said responding to a question.

Half a million Rohingya children are stateless in Cox’s Bazar area, increasingly anxious about their futures, and vulnerable to frustration and despair, according to Unicef.

The massive humanitarian efforts led by the government of Bangladesh with international support have saved countless children’s lives.

Unicef said there is no viable solution in sight for these Rohingya children, who live in the world’s largest and most congested refugee settlement.

The vast majority were forced to flee for their lives from Myanmar into Bangladesh in August 2017.

In Myanmar, the majority have no legal identity or citizenship. In Bangladesh, children are not being registered at birth, they lack a legal identity, and they lack a refugee status. Until conditions in Myanmar lead to those eligible returning home, Rohingya children remain status-less minority.

This excludes these children from learning a formal education curriculum and they are desperately in need of marketable skills.

“The obligation we’ve as a global society is immense: to give children and young people the world has defined as ‘stateless’, the education and skills they need to build decent lives for themselves,” said Unicef Executive Director Fore.

The results of a survey completed in December 2018 of 180,000 Rohingya children ages 4-14 now enrolled in “Learning Centers” across the Cox’s Bazar area, show the extent of the need for education.

More than 90 percent were shown to have learning competencies at the pre-primary to grades 1-2 level.

Just 4 percent were at grade levels 3-5, and 3 percent at grades 6-8. By the end of 2018, just 3 percent of Rohingya between 15 and 24 years old were getting any education or vocational skills.

“We must agree now, and collectively, to invest in this generation of Rohingya children, so that they can better navigate their lives today, and be a constructive part of rebuilding Myanmar’s social fabric when they are able to return,” said Dr Al Meraikhi. “Today, without a legal identity, they’re at the mercy of traffickers and drug dealers.”

Unicef is now reaching 155,000 children ages 4-14 with a learning programme that is progressively, including higher quality and more structured learning and skills.

The priority for 2019 is to reach older adolescents with foundational skills in literacy and numeracy, and relevant vocational skills. There will also be a much stronger focus on support for the local host community in Cox’s Bazar.

“This is crucial work, but a drop in the bucket of need. This is an untenable situation,” Fore said adding that a generation of Rohingya children and young people cannot be left without the education and skills they need to build a life for themselves.

“If they become self-sustaining, their communities will also become self-sustaining, and flourish. With the right investment, the Rohingya can be an asset to their community and to the world,” Fore said.

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