Mennonite Central Committee is working with other members of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to respond to the needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where more than half a million people have fled extreme violence in Myanmar in search of safety and freedom.
“It’s a rapidly growing humanitarian crisis where hundreds of thousands of people are in urgent need of help,” says Foodgrains Bank program manager Matthew Van Geest, who is coordinating the response on behalf of the organization.
Foodgrains Bank members World Renew and Emergency Relief and Development Overseas (ERDO), along with their local partners, are leading the response with two projects in the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh, where many of the refugees have fled.
MCC—as well as several other Foodgrains Bank members—are providing financial support to the projects.
Bruce Guenther, MCC’s director of disaster response, says this coordination will mean more assistance for a greater number of people.
“Very high levels of malnutrition have been reported, especially among children,” he says. “By working together with other Foodgrains Bank members, we can provide urgent relief in the midst of this growing crisis.”
More than 4,300 households (about 26,000 people) will receive emergency rations of rice, lentils, oil, sugar, salt and high-energy biscuits for three months. Combined, the projects provide more than $1 million of support to Rohingya refugees.
Most of the Rohingya are Muslims whose descendants came to Myanmar generations ago. They speak a different language and are of a different religion than the majority of people in Myanmar, who are Buddhist. The Myanmar government denies them citizenship and places restrictions on their rights.
Violence broke out in northern Rakhine state at the end of August when Rohingya militants attacked government forces. According to the United Nations, the Myanmar government responded against the Rohingya with disproportionate violence.
Entire villages have been destroyed, and there has been widespread panic and flight.
Van Geest says Foodgrains Bank members will continue to monitor the situation faced by Rohingya refugees to see if additional food is needed.
MCC has ongoing work in Myanmar, including supporting the Myanmar Institute of Theology’s Peace Studies Centre. MCC also supports women’s groups that address conflict in their communities and promote equal rights and opportunities for women.
MCC welcomes donations to its Rohingya refugee response at www.donate.mcc.org.
To read more about the refugee crisis, visit http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57490#.WfdEdSMrLJy.