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Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Will Soon Exceed 1 Million, U.N. Says

Still, he said, “even at that rate the numbers are expected to exceed a million shortly.”

Edouard Beigbeder, the Unicef representative to Bangladesh, said that the crisis had shown “no sign of abating” and that the refugees’ needs were “increasing at a much faster pace than our capacity to respond.”

More than 300,000 children are among the Rohingya refugees. Mark Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, told reporters that many were acutely malnourished.

States had previously committed around $116 million toward the $430 million sought by the United Nations for humanitarian aid over the next six months. Pledges received from governments on Monday raised the total to about $340 million, Mr. Lowcock said, expressing confidence that additional contributions would flow in coming days.


Children carrying jugs of water across a Naf River stream to the refugee camp outside Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, last month.

Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Even so, humanitarian agencies face enormous challenges delivering relief. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were crammed on a strip of land that lacked roads or infrastructure to support the delivery of aid.

“It’s basic mud land,” said Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders. “Right now everything is difficult.”

With 210 hospital beds available to support more than 900,000 people living with little access to clean water, sanitation or medical care, the refugees’ situation is a “time bomb ticking toward a full-blown health crisis,” Ms. Liu told the meeting.

The United Nations food aid agency said that it had distributed food to 580,000 people since the crisis erupted, but that it had so far received less than one-third of the $77 million it needs to aid a million people over six months.

Alongside the appeal for aid, relief agency officials expressed concern that the humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh should not eclipse the need for diplomatic and political steps to end the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State and to create conditions that would enable the refugees to return.

“This is not an isolated crisis,” Mr. Lowcock told the meeting. “It is the latest round in a decades-long cycle of persecution, violence and displacement.”

Queen Rania of Jordan, who visited some of the makeshift camps on Monday, expressed shock at the conditions. “It is unforgivable that this crisis is unfolding, largely ignored by the international community,” she said in a statement. “The world response has been muted.”

The Geneva meeting coincided with a visit by Bangladesh’s home affairs minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, to Myanmar for talks on the Rohingya crisis, refugee repatriation and border security.

Myanmar’s de facto head of state, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, announced plans in early October for establishing a civilian agency to help resettle and provide assistance to Rohingya Muslims. Humanitarian groups fear that the plan remains a distant prospect.

The persecution tactics adopted by the Myanmar security forces — burning entire villages and destroying fields, crops, livestock and even trees — “render the possibility of the Rohingya returning to normal lives and livelihoods in the future in northern Rakhine almost impossible,” United Nations investigators reported this month.

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