Bangladesh open-arm policy towards receiving the fear-stricken Rohingyas from Myanmar meant it has played a fundamental part in providing refuge to a persecuted mass of people. By doing so, it has partaken of an international role as the first safe port of call to the refugees. To that extent, Bangladesh as front-line state has helped ease some of the moral-humanitarian concerns of the international community.
Acclaim and gratitude deserved by and bestowed on Bangladesh aplenty, though gratifying, are nonetheless overtaken by the harsh ground realities of dire proportions. Almost every inch of shrinking space that includes hill slopes is having rabbits-of-a-warren living conditions. With the onset of rains, water-borne diseases threaten to take on an epidemic form. Hill-slides are staring in the face of the refugees and local folks alike. In one word, Bangladesh, a resource-constrained country but well on its way to leap on to a middle-income status may be faced with a setback unless international community chips in. Aside from baby-boom in camps, child and maternal health issues, socio-economic fallout in the shape of narcotic trade, sexual exploitation, there is are potential security issues to contend with.
The Pope, international civil servants, foreign government leaders, media persons , celebrities, charities , non-governmental organisation (NGO) executives have made compassionate visits to the newer refugee camps in an expression of solidarity. That is all very good but much more needs to be done even on purely humanitarian basis.
In this context, we come by a news report in this paper titled, "WB, ADB likely to give Rohingya grants after government push." It is learnt from officials of the Economic Relations Division(ERD) that the World Bank, which had earlier offered Bangladesh loans from its US$ 2.0 billion worth 'Refugee Fund', is having second thoughts towards being responsive to Bangladesh's request for grants. The World Bank in a break with copy-book style may respond to Bangladesh request for grants instead of its 'assured loans'.
It will be worthwhile to note whether following Bangladesh requests to both the development partners-the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-for grants in place of loans they make special consideration for the Rohingyas. Already, the World Bank (WB) has sent a mission to Bangladesh and it has been meeting different ministries including the health, education, food and disaster management to assess requirements, and the present state of the Rohingya. The mission has had a wrap-up meeting with the Economic Relations Division (ERD) secretary by the time this piece appears.
The point to note is that the WB's concessional window, the International Development Association, has created a fund called the "Refugee Fund." This has a generalised agenda to support refugees across the world. From the fund totaling US$2.0 billion, a country can apply for a maximum of $400 in loan over a three-year term.
The ADB seems set to follow the WB in sending a mission to Bangladesh soon enough to work out the necessity of financial support and the modalities of extending financial support.
Without being overly optimistic, we can say what should weigh in with both World Bank and ADB is the fact that Cox's Bazar, the economically impoverished region, is having to host one million Rohingya. Extreme poverty rates in the region exceed 40 per cent as against the national average of nearly 13 per cent. This underscores the perils to which the host communities around the refugee camps are exposed.
As development partners the World Bank and the ADB would be hopefully seized with the development aspect of the challenge, including threat of terrorism and hindrance to tourism, that Bangladesh faces. All because of Myanmar's wickedness, cunning, deceit and defiance propped up by some powers.
© 2017 - All Rights with The Financial Express