In announcing the appeal, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said eight of Australia’s major humanitarian organisations were calling for urgent funds to help nearly one million people who have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
More than 600,000 people who identify as Rohingya – mostly women and children – have fled to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh since August 25. This is in addition to more than 200,000 Rohingya refugees who were already in Bangladesh. Shelter, blankets, food, clean drinking water, sanitation and health care are urgently needed.
Under the appeal, which is supported by the ABC, the Australian Government will match donations to Australian Red Cross and Australia for UNHCR up to a total of $5 million. It is also working closely with the other agencies participating in the appeal, including Caritas, to respond to the crisis.
Caritas Australia’s CEO Paul O’Callaghan welcomed the government’s effort.
“This support provides life-saving help for the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need,” he said.
Caritas Bangladesh has already been responding to the immediate needs of refugees by providing food items such as lentils, salt, sugar and cooking oil, as well as basic cooking utensils to more than 29,000 families.
Executive director of Caritas Bangladesh Francis Atul Sarker said Caritas has reached about one-third of the population of new arrivals – but more help is needed.
“We are facing the threat of an epidemic because people are living in such dire circumstances. Without clean water and sanitation an outbreak of cholera could easily occur,” he said.
To donate to the appeal go to www.abc.net.au/appeals/ or www.caritas.org.au/rohingya, or call 1800 024 413.
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