We have all been appalled by the terrible violence and ethnic cleansing that have taken place in Burma’s Rakhine State. Nearly a million Rohingya have now fled to Bangladesh from Burma. I visited the camps where most of them are living last year and witnessed for myself the precarious conditions there.
The annual monsoon and cyclone season begins imminently, and heavy rainfall is expected over the coming months. The Rohingya refugee camps are extremely vulnerable; the latest humanitarian response plan estimates that up to 200,000 Rohingya are living in areas at risk of flooding and collapse with the rainy season. I would like to assure the House that the UK Government is doing everything it can to press for and support preparedness.
We have been struck by the magnitude of the Government of Bangladesh’s generosity in providing refuge for so many people in desperate need. It has an excellent track record in disaster preparedness and protecting the vulnerable from the impacts of floods and cyclones. It is important that such preparedness is extended to Rohingya people currently hosted in Bangladesh. We are encouraging Bangladesh to take as many measures to save lives as possible: such as allocating additional land that is at lower risk of flooding and landslides, reducing density in the existing camps and having evacuation plans in place including to safe places such as cyclone shelters.
We and Bangladesh’s other friends are committed to supporting them with this. UK Government Ministers and officials have been in close contact with their Government of Bangladesh counterparts on this issue. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary and I wrote jointly to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 20 March, urging the government of Bangladesh to fully harness their expertise in this area and reaffirming our strong support.
I am proud of the role the UK is playing in response to the Rohingya crisis. The UK is a leading donor to the humanitarian effort in Bangladesh. We have committed an additional £59m since last August, including matching £5m of public donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal. We will remain a leading donor going forward. As part of our response we are taking a wide range of measures to improve flood and cyclone preparedness, including:
Rohingya women and children are also vulnerable to gender based violence and sexual exploitation. The UK is leading the way in supporting a range of organisations providing specialised help to survivors of sexual violence in Bangladesh. This includes 19 women’s centres offering a safe space, psychosocial support and activities to women and girls, 30 Child Friendly Spaces supporting children with protective services and psychological support, case management for nearly 2,200 survivors of sexual violence and 13 sexual and reproductive health clinics.