NEW YORK—George Soros and the Open Society Foundations today announced an emergency assistance fund of $10 million to help Rohingya people displaced from Myanmar and host communities in Bangladesh. From April to October there is a high risk of flash floods, landslides, and cyclones in southern Bangladesh, where the Rohingya are sheltered in makeshift settlements vulnerable to water contamination and spread of disease.
The fund includes a donation of $8 million to BRAC, one of the largest international development and humanitarian organizations based in Bangladesh, and comes after an urgent call from the United Nations for humanitarian assistance for the more than 650,000 Rohingya who since August 2017 have fled Rakhine State, Myanmar. An additional $2 million will go to other projects that support the Rohingya. The appeal also recognizes the needs of host communities, given significant strains placed on the local economy, environment, and vital resources.
“The Rohingya people have already suffered serious abuses in Myanmar, and unless exceptional measures are taken, their suffering will continue in Bangladesh when the monsoon season starts this month,” said George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations. “The more people are moved out of harm’s way, the better the chances of the remaining ones to survive.”
“The BRAC team has been working hand in hand with the Government of Bangladesh and partner organizations, first to ensure emergency relief, and now gradually to address critical services and long-term livelihood needs in the Rohingya settlements,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC. “In an environment mired in conflict, BRAC’s vision of a world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination, remains as relevant as ever. We will continue to support the government’s efforts to ensure a safe and dignified life for the displaced Rohingya families and host communities.”
During a humanitarian crisis, the needs are manifold. Children are the most vulnerable, with a high prevalence of trauma. They require protection services and safe places to continue their schooling and development during early childhood.
BRAC has in place the largest civil society response for the Rohingya, with more than 3,200 people working on the ground. Its integrated approach includes attention to sanitation and hygiene infrastructure, health care, education, protection, livelihood security, intensive behavioral change communication and counseling, and distribution of non-food items and shelter to ensure the dignity and wellbeing of displaced families.
“I urge other philanthropies, governments, and the private sector to develop a comprehensive action plan to provide Bangladesh with major financial support, debt forgiveness, and trade concessions while continuing to call on the Myanmar government to ensure safe, voluntary, and dignified return for the Rohingya,” said Soros.
The Open Society Foundations have taken a special interest in the plight of the Rohingya people. In 2015, Soros visited camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, in Myanmar, where he was reminded of the Jewish ghetto in Budapest during World War II. Soros, who lived through the Nazi occupation and fled communism in Hungary, has long been committed to the needs of refugees.