Top UN officials have said they are working both privately and publicly to find a political solution to the Rohingya crisis as well as create conducive atmosphere for the return of Myanmar nationals who took shelter in Bangladesh following brutal military crackdown in Rakhine state in August 2017.
“I have always said 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 to find a political solution to the Rohingya crisis,” said UN Secretary General's Humanitarian Envoy Ahmed Al Meraikhi.
Addressing a press conference at a Dhaka hotel with Unicef executive director, he said food, medical services, temporary shelter etc. can only mitigate the sufferings of the people.
The two UN officials arranged the press conference following their two-day joint mission to Cox's Bazar on February 25, 26.
“We are working publicly and privately in all the agencies of the United Nations to try to create conducive atmosphere for the return of Rohingyas,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore, who acknowledged absence of required conditions for Rohingya repatriation.
Both the humanitarian envoy and Unicef chief said it is essential to ensure safe environment and accommodation in Myanmar for the Rohingyas for long-term and sustainable solutions.
Unicef Bangladesh is appealing for $152 million in 2019 to meet the expenses of providing 6,85,000 Rohingya refugees and host communities with critical support. As of February, 29 percent of that amount has been received.
“There is no viable solution in sight for the Rohingya children, who live in the world's largest and most congested refugee settlement,” reads the statement styled “18 months after exodus from Myanmar, Rohingya children at a crossroad”.
“The obligation we have 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 the Unicef executive director.
The results of a survey completed in December 2018 on Rohingya children, aged 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.
“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 Al Meraikhi. “Today, without a legal identity, they are at the mercy of traffickers and drug dealers.”
Unicef is now reaching 1,55,000 children, aged 4-14, with a learning programme that is progressively including 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, one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh.
“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 education and skills 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,” she said.