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UN appeals for aid as Myanmar refugee exodus nears 300,000

The United Nations has appealed for aid to deal with a humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Bangladesh after the number of Muslim Rohingya fleeing Myanmar neared 300,000, just two weeks after violence erupted there. The wave of hungry and traumatised refugees is “showing no signs of stopping”, overwhelming agencies in the Cox’s Bazar region already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous spasms of conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the U.N. said.

“It is vital that aid agencies working in Cox’s Bazar have the resources they need to provide emergency assistance to incredibly vulnerable people who have been forced to flee their homes and have arrived in Bangladesh with nothing,” the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Robert Watkins said. He said in a statement late on Saturday that agencies urgently needed $77 million to cope with an emergency that was triggered when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base on Aug. 25, prompting a military counter-offensive.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgent group declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire, starting on Sunday, to enable aid groups bring humanitarian aid to those still in the north-western state of Buddhist-majority Myanmar. The impact of ARSA’s move is unclear, but it does not appear to have been able to put up significant resistance against the military force unleashed in Rakhine state, where thousands of homes have been burned down and dozens of villages destroyed.

Thousands of displaced people in Rakhine have been stranded or left without food for weeks. Many are still trying to cross-mountains, dense bush and rice fields to reach Bangladesh. Red Cross organisations are scaling up their operations in Rakhine after the U.N. had to suspend activities there following government suggestions that its agency had supported the insurgents. The U.N. has evacuated non-critical staff from the area over the past two weeks.

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