With more than 360,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims having been driven from Myanmar into Bangaldesh in just three weeks, the UN has warned that a catastrophic humanitarian crisis will infold if the international community does not act.
The United Arab Emirates, already a humanitarian logistics stronghold for first response, was one of the first to get involved this week when it was announced that HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai had dispatched a Boeing 747 cargo plane loaded with tents to shelter Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The tents were assembled and prepared for shipping at Dubai International Humanitarian City (IHC) by the UNHRD, a network of depots around the world (in Ghana, Italy, UAE, Malaysia, Panama, Spain) that procures, stores, manages and transports emergency items on behalf of the humanitarian community.
The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates said the plane is carrying over 100 metric tons (110 tons) of tents made available by the United Nations refugee agency. It is the second to leave Dubai's International Humanitarian City in recent days.
The tents will provide shelter for some 8,355 refugees, according to the UNHCR’s head of office in the UAE, Toby Harward, who praised the humanitarian response of Shaikh Mohammad.
“We are very grateful to His Highness for his generous support. The UAE, and the facilities at IHC in Dubai, is a critical logistical hub that allows UNHCR to respond rapidly in times of emergency. The country’s leadership has repeatedly responded benevolently to the many humanitarian challenges that we face today,” he said.
Another UNHCR shipment carried jerrycans, sleeping mats, tarps, blankets and kitchen sets.
According to humanitarian logistics professionals at the IHC, these items are essential for the preservation of life following a major disaster that displaces large numbers of people.
The UNHCR global stockpile in the UAE is the largest global warehouse in the world, and was established in late 2006 as part of the International Humanitarian City, IHC.
The ethnic Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are fleeing systemic violence that the UN has called “text book ethnic cleansing”. They are a minority in the country, hailing from Bangaldesh, and are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government, while Bangaldesh has refused to allow them to be repatriated.
The violence is occurring in Myanmar's Rakhine state, which borders Bangaldesh, which has been overwhelmed by the flood of refugees crossing its border, arriving with just the clothes on their backs.
Humanitarian aid is desperately needed, relief agencies say that more than 20,000 people are crossing the border per day.
In a statement the government of Bangladesh said it was expanding the camp for the Rohingya refugees and was doing all it could to help, "but it is nearing its limits." Bangladesh "urgently calls on the government of Myanmar to repatriate the Rohigya within Bangladesh's borders, and on the international community to pressure Myanmar to do so."
UN Secretary General António Guterres said that the crisis involving the Rohingya Myanmar's Rakhine state had become "catastrophic."
Indonesia has also mobilised to help, with four Hercules planes carrying 34 tons of aid sent from Jakarta.