Donors pledge $228M in new funds for UN's Rohingya appeal

Donors pledge $228M in new funds for UN's Rohingya appeal

GENEVA — U.N. humanitarian agencies said a pledging conference held Monday raised $228 million in new funds to aid Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as governments and international organizations chipped in to help the Muslim minority group that has fled violence in Myanmar.

A total of 35 pledges from donors that include the European Union and a royal Saudi Arabian foundation have been made to fulfil a U.N. appeal for $434 million over six months.

The funding for roughly 600,000 Rohingya who have reached Bangladesh by foot or sea since the end of August was billed by U.N. officials as a moral imperative and a show of support for a beleaguered, stateless people. Before Monday, only $116 million was committed.

"Today, we stand united for the right cause," EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said. "The Rohingya deserve nothing less than every other human being in the world. They deserve a future. We have a moral duty to give these people hope."

The Rohyinga have faced killings, rape and the burning of villages since security forces in Myanmar launched a crackdown on their communities that U.N. officials have characterized as ethnic cleansing.

U.N. officials reported a number of final tallies through the day on Monday, before settling on a "grand total" of cumulative pledges of nearly $345 million.

Most of the new funds will go to U.N.-led programs, though some will also support the Red Cross and bilateral programs outside the United Nations, officials said.

A breakdown showed Britain — a former colonial power in both Myanmar and Bangladesh — now leads the way in pledges and commitments of more than $63 million. The EU's European Commission has pledged nearly $42.5 million and the United States $38 million.

Sweden and Australia both put up over $23 million, Saudi Arabia $20 million.

The U.S. State Department said the United States, which did not pony up any new funds on Monday, was "currently reviewing appeals for possible additional funding," a U.S. official said. Canada also did not pledge new funding, but said it would do so in coming days.

Myanmar's government has said its security forces were responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents, but the United Nations has said the scorched-earth campaign was disproportionate.

Speaking to conference attendees as the session opened, Mark Lowcock, the head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, lamented a "humanitarian and human rights nightmare" faced by the Rohingya in Bangladesh. He said the main focus of the event was "mobilizing resources to save lives and protect people."

The government of Bangladesh and its host communities came in for heavy praise for opening up to more than 800,000 Rohingya who now live in makeshift camps and communities. Over half of those who have fled in the latest wave are children.

Director-General William Swing of the International Organization for Migration said that based on current trends, "the numbers are expected to exceed a million fairly shortly."

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This story corrects an earlier version that said $234 million in new pledges were made at Monday conference.

Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press