The fall of humanity WB and ADB’s loan for Rohingyas

Loans the result of ducking responsibility

Six years have passed since Myanmar’s military unleashed a ruthless onslaught on the Rohingya communities scattered throughout the country’s Rakhine State. The head of the UN agency for human rights later described the military’s actions as “acts of horrific barbarity,” possibly “acts of genocide,” and “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Since then, over a million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh in search of protection.

The expenses and ramifications for Bangladesh’s economy, society, and environment have prompted her to use a major percentage of her limited resources, despite the fact that she has never received enough financial aid for Rohingya refugees. Instead, help has been declining over time.

Contributions from contributors made up only 60 percent of the necessary funding in 2020, compared to roughly 72 percent to 75 percent two years prior. To support the refugees, the Rohingya Refugee Crisis Joint Response Plan 2022 requested about $881 million in funding. A little over 50 percent went to Bangladesh. With a 51 percent shortage, the situation is even more dire this year, in 2023.



International aid
to the Rohingyas

Year Requirement Funded Shortfall
2017 (Sep-Feb 18) US$ 434.1 M $ 317 M 27 percent
2018 (Mar-Dec) $ 951 M $ 655 M 31 percent
2019 $ 920 M $ 699 M 24 percent
2020 $ 1058 M $ 629 M 40.5 percent
2021 $ 943 M $ 653 M 31 percent
2022 $ 881 M $ 431.8 M 51 percent
2023 (till Nov. 30) $ 876 M $ 429.3 M 51 percent


Financial support for additional extended crises in 2022 and 2023 appears to align with the prevailing political inclination towards and donor commitments for Ukraine. For example, the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2022 got fewer than half of its funding application in 2022, while having exceptionally well-funded levels in 2021 (112.8 percent).

From January 2020 to September 2023, Australia allocated $11.2 million annually to support the Rohingya population. But it will only give them $6.4 million a year between July 2023 and the end of 2025. That’s a 43 percent decrease.

Though the 2022 “Stand Up for Ukraine” global pledging campaign raised $8.9 billion, the fastest and most generous responses a humanitarian flash appeal has ever received, at the 2022 international donor conference on Yemen, a country of 23.4 million people in dire crisis with war and famine, the UN appealed for $4.3 billion for humanitarian aid. World leaders offered less than one-third of that. This so-called “aid void” is increasing for Myanmar, the Sahel, and Ethiopia.

10 percent and 14 percent, respectively, of Sweden and Denmark’s respective aid budgets for 2021 will be diverted from other aid priorities to Ukraine. Denmark further  declared that in order to finance the reception of fleeing Ukrainians, it will postpone development funding that it had designated for Syria, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Bangladesh (Rohingya).

The United Kingdom has declared its intention to stop funding any aid that is deemed “non-essential.” According to estimates, this might lead to a 25 percent reduction in the spending budget, on top of the reductions already made since 2020, with more aid cuts going to countries like Sudan and Syria.

It is important that the Rohingya refugee situation is not overlooked. Our first responsibility is to respond to any humanitarian crisis in the same way. We have to avoid bias. The Rohingya crisis, the fastest and greatest refugee inflow since the Rwandan massacre in 1994, should get equal attention with the crises in Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

With the exception of its considerable assistance to Ukraine, the USA has also reduced its humanitarian budget by $1 billion from 2021 to 2022. Critical programmes had already been trimmed in the West Bank and Gaza, while Yemen’s food rations had been drastically cut.

Owing to a lack of resources, WFP was compelled to reduce ‘General Food Assistance’ voucher value from $12 to $10 per person per month in March 2023, and then to just $8 in June. However, 45 percent of households who are Rohingya do not consume enough food. The rate of global acute malnutrition in Rohingya children is 12 percent, which is somewhat lower than the WHO’s 15 percent “emergency” level but still considered serious. Prior to the reduction in rations, around 40 percent of children had stunted growth and 40 percent of pregnant and nursing mothers were anaemic.

The effects of these cuts, according to UN experts, will be horribly predictable and include a rise in the incidence of acute malnutrition, newborn mortality, violence, and even death. Additionally, it will fuel more instability in the area, and some Rohingya may come to the conclusion that it is preferable to risk dying at sea and entrust their lives to traffickers and smugglers than to starve to death in the camps.

As a result of the declining level of international assistance, the Bangladeshi government was forced to request a loan in order to support the Rohingya population— a first since the 2017 migration. With $315 million in grants and $385 million in loans, the World Bank has committed to paying $700 million. A grant of $150 million and a loan of the same amount totalling $300 million have also been guaranteed by the ADB. Which is just one illustration of the “falls of humanity”.

Over the years, Bangladesh has taken on more than its fair share of the responsibility for housing and aiding more than a million Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh welcomed the persecuted Rohingyas into its borders on humanitarian grounds, but this does not oblige Bangladesh to perpetually bear further financial responsibilities that require the joint efforts of the international community.

Grants, not loans, should be the mode of support offered by the ADB and the World Bank. Aiding Bangladesh in addressing the massive obstacles brought about by the Rohingya crisis presents a chance for institutions such as the World Bank and ADB to show that their purpose extends beyond the indiscriminate lending business. Additionally, the international community needs to make sure that the burden of this humanitarian disaster caused by persecution is shared fairly and equally.

The international community’s callous abdication of responsibilities and abandonment of Bangladesh to almost entirely bear the brunt of the load is not a just, prudent, or sustainable policy. For its part, Bangladesh has already experienced a great deal of stress due to the economic, social, environmental, and security issues brought on by the Rohingya genocide.

In order to guarantee a just and equal allocation of the associated expenses, the government of Bangladesh ought to initiate communication with the global community. The international community has to provide Bangladesh with more assistance in resolving the Rohingya refugee issue, especially those nations that have multifaceted interests, stakes, and leverage in Myanmar. The UN must also work to address the root causes of the crisis and promote repatriation efforts.

It is important that the Rohingya refugee situation is not overlooked. Our first responsibility is to respond to any humanitarian crisis in the same way. We have to avoid bias. The Rohingya crisis, the fastest and greatest refugee inflow since the Rwandan massacre in 1994, should get equal attention with the crises in Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

Nur-Mohammad Sheikh
Nur-Mohammad Sheikh
The writer is a freelance columnist


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