About 3,000 refugees fleeing political turmoil in Burundi have been infected in a cholera epidemic in neighboring Tanzania, the United Nations said on Friday, stoking fears of a growing humanitarian crisis in Africa’s Great Lakes.
Up to 400 new cases of the deadly disease were emerging every day, the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR said, mainly in Tanzania’s Kagunga peninsula where tens of thousands of Burundians have taken refuge, often in squalid conditions.
Second, the Burmese navy rescued a boat containing about 200 Rohingya refugees that was stranded in the Bay of Bengal. Obviously it’s good news that these people were rescued, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared with the number of refugees still stuck on the high seas, essentially held hostage by the smugglers they paid to put them on those boats in the first place:
In the Bay of Bengal, the UNHCR believes up to 2,000 migrants are still stuck on vessels controlled by people smugglers who have been unwilling to begin the journey south because of the crackdown.
A trickle of would-be migrants have recently returned to Myanmar after relatives raised funds to buy them back from smugglers.
Also, the fact is that these 200 would-be refugees are going to be sent right back to Myanmar, which was the place they were trying to flee in the first place. They’re going back to Myanmar’s open-air Rohingya prison camps and back to the constant risk of attack from Buddhist mobs. I assume it beats being stranded at sea in an overcrowded boat, but maybe not by much. On the plus side, Turkey announced that it’s donating $1 million to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR specifically earmarked for aid to Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants still trapped at sea.
There aren’t many charities that do any work with the Rohingya, I suspect because the Burmese government makes it difficult. After they’d been banned by the government from working in Myanmar’s Rakhine State (where most of the Rohingya are) last February, Doctors Without Borders was allowed to resume its work there in January, so that’s one place to consider donating. Islamic Relief USA has good Charity Navigator ratings and has a “Myanmar Humanitarian Fund,” so that seems like another option. They’ve had accusations of ties to terrorism (Hamas, mostly) leveled at them in the past, so take that into consideration, but a UK audit in December found no evidence of any terrorist ties between their parent organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide, and any terrorist organizations or activities. UNHCR is another option (see link above), but I would steer clear of IOM, which has some concerns associated with it.
Also, the ongoing conflict in Yemen continues to displace Yemenis, tens of thousands of them still inside Yemen and thousands in nearby Djibouti. Again, the UNHCR is one place to consider, but you might also think about Save the Children or UNICEF as well.