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Rohingyas Are Suffering 'On A Catastrophic Scale.' Here's How To Help.

26/10/2017 10:39 AM AEDT | Updated 28/10/2017 2:45 PM AEDT
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COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH - SEPTEMBER 27: A Rohingya refugee woman holds her child as she stands outside her shelter at the sprawling Balukali refugee camp on September 27, 2017 in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. More than half a million Rohingya refugees have flooded into Bangladesh to flee an offensive by Myanmar's military that the United Nations has called 'a textbook example of ethnic cleansing'. The refugee population is expected to swell further, with thousands more Rohingya Muslims said to be making the perilous journey on foot toward the border, or paying smugglers to take them across by water in wooden boats. Hundreds are known to have died trying to escape, and survivors arrive with horrifying accounts of villages burned, women raped, and scores killed in the 'clearance operations' by Myanmar's army and Buddhist mobs that were sparked by militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine state on August 25, 2017. What the Rohingya refugees flee to is a different kind of suffering in sprawling makeshift camps rife with fears of malnutrition, cholera, and other diseases. Aid organizations are struggling to keep pace with the scale of need and the staggering number of them - an estimated 60 percent - who are children arriving alone. Bangladesh, whose acceptance of the refugees has been praised by humanitarian officials for saving lives, has urged the creation of an internationally-recognized 'safe zone' where refugees can return, though Rohingya Muslims have long been persecuted in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. World leaders are still debating how to confront the country and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who championed democracy, but now appears unable or unwilling to stop the army's brutal crackdown. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Kevin Frayer via Getty Images
A Rohingya refugee boy desperate for aid cries as he climbs on a truck distributing aid for a local NGO near the Balukali refugee camp on Sept. 20 in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of thousands of desperate Rohingyas have fled their homes in Myanmar to escape what the United Nations describes as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.

“When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?” asked an incredulous Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the U.N.

That was in September. Today, two months after Burmese authorities unleashed a horrific crackdown against the persecuted Muslim minority group, the number of refugees has already swelled beyond 600,000 ― well over half of Myanmar’s ailing Rohingya population.

Thousands more remain stranded in the country’s Rakhine State, engulfed by a crisis that continues to cause suffering “on a catastrophic scale,” the U.N. warns. Humanitarian groups have gathered evidence of abhorrent state-sponsored atrocities including rape, torture, shootings and arson. According to Amnesty International, many of these targeted assaults amount to crimes against humanity.

The sheer magnitude of the Rohingyas’ harrowing plight may leave you feeling helpless, but there are ways you can make a difference.

Kevin Frayer via Getty Images
A Rohingya refugee woman is helped from a boat as she arrives exhausted on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River after fleeing her village in Myanmar.

Get informed

The first step is simple, but crucial: Take the time to learn about what is happening to Rohingyas every day in Rakhine State and beyond. The details are disturbing, but ignorance only adds to the problem.

Myanmar’s government continues to restrict humanitarian organizations and investigatory missions from accessing crisis-torn Rakhine, making it difficult to gather direct information. But a number of groups are using satellite data to document the destruction of Rohingya villages, and gathering witness testimonies in neighboring Bangladesh, which now hosts more Rohingyas than Myanmar. Take a look at some of the resources below:

👉🏻  For the most up-to-date information, including the growing number of refugees, access the latest ReliefWeb situation reports.

👉🏻  Learn about the Rohingya exodus by the numbers.

👉🏻  Read more about the state’s campaign of systemic abuse in Amnesty’s report, “My World is Finished.”

👉🏻  Doctors Without Borders is working to treat Rohingya arrivals in Bangladesh. Read doctors’ and patients’ heartbreaking stories.

👉🏻  Learn how the crisis is disproportionately affecting children in UNICEF’s report, “Outcast and Desperate.”

👉🏻  Read about the international aid response and multimillion-dollar funding gap.

👉🏻  Follow HuffPost’s continued coverage of the crisis here.

Kevin Frayer via Getty Images
Rohingya refugees carry their belongings as they walk through water on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River after fleeing their village in Myanmar.

Demand action and accountability

Call up your local representatives and demand justice for Rohingyas. You can ask them to exert their influence to seek change and accountability from Myanmar’s government, or to keep Bangladeshi borders open as refugees continue to arrive. If you’re in the United States, find a list of senators’ contact information here.

The International Campaign for the Rohingya is lobbying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the U.S. government to “use its influence, including its key position on the United Nations Security Council, to end the attacks by the Burmese army against Rohingya communities.” Add your name to the petition here.

In the United Kingdom, Parliament will consider petitions with more than 100,000 signatures for debate. You can find, sign and create proposals related to the Rohingya crisis here.

Protesting can also be an effective way to draw attention to an issue. Check your local community calendars and social media pages to see if there are any upcoming demonstrations, or if you’re in the U.S., start your own here.

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Rohingya refugees desperate for aid crowd as a local NGO ditributes food near the Baluki refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Support the Durbin-McCain resolution

A valuable way to make your voice heard is by urging Congress to support a bipartisan resolution put forward by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The bill condemns forced displacement and violence against Rohingyas, demands an immediate end to hostilities by Burmese authorities and calls on the government to allow unrestricted access to humanitarian groups in Rakhine.

It also calls on Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to break her conspicuous silence and inaction on the unfolding tragedy.

Read more about the resolution here.

Send a pre-written message advocating the bill’s passage directly to your member of Congress by filling out this form from Amnesty here.

Kevin Frayer via Getty Images
A Rohingya refugee boy is carried in a basket by a relative on Sept. 24 after crossing the border on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River while fleeing Myanmar.

Volunteer, fundraise & donate

No matter where you live, there are opportunities to get involved in some capacity or another ― whether it’s organizing a fundraiser, distributing fliers or collecting neighborhood donations while trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Organizations like Muslim Hands, a U.K.-based charity, will provide Rohingya volunteers with resources such as collection buckets, penny boxes, T-shirts and items for hosting charity dinners. Sign up here.

There are many humanitarian groups doing diligent work to help crisis-afflicted Rohingyas, and they need your support. Charity Navigator is a nonprofit website that evaluates charitable groups based on accountability, transparency and financial performance. Check out its refugee-focused charity ratings here

“Rohingya families are arriving to the camps with nothing except the clothes on their backs,” UNICEF spokesperson Joe English told HuffPost. “Even when they reach the relative safety of Bangladesh, their situation remains all too precarious.”

Small contributions can go a long way, English noted: “A donation of $30 can provide a malnourished child with therapeutic food for a month, or help support ‘child-friendly spaces’ providing children affected with a safe place to play, learn and begin to rebuild their lives.”

If possible, consider donating to any of the nonprofit organizations whose Rohingya campaigns are linked below:

International Campaign for the Rohingya

UNHCR

Amnesty International

Doctors Without Borders

Save the Children

UNICEF

Islamic Relief USA

OXFAM

United Nations crisis relief campaign

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