On Wednesday, the US State Department announced a commitment to provide $32 million in humanitarian aid for the Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh.
According to the State Department, the money will be go toward “emergency shelter, food security, nutritional assistance, health assistance, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods, social inclusion, non-food items, disaster and crisis risk reduction, restoring family links, and protection to over 400,000 displaced persons in Burma [Myanmar] and in Bangladesh.”
The statement reflects the first formal action taken by the US to address the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Notably, it comes on the heels of a meeting between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Myanmar’s state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Since a widespread and coordinated attack on Myanmar police stations by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) took place a little over a month ago, clashes between Myanmar’s military and the ARSA have caused a mass exodus of the minority Muslim Rohingya people from the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
It is estimated that over 421,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since the violence began.
In the majority Buddhist country of Myanmar, many are calling the conflict an act of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya people.
Officials say the $32 million pledged by the US will come from existing accounts set up to provide aid for refugee- and migration-related issues. Combined with earlier aid, this money would bring the total amount spent by the US to assist Rohingya and other refugees to $95 million in this fiscal year.
The US also called on other nations to step up in support of the Rohingya minority.
“The United States calls upon all parties to allow for unfettered humanitarian access to people in Rakhine State,” the press release reads. “[W]e also encourage other donors to join us in providing additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the crisis.”
Vice President Mike Pence echoed this message during a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, publically calling on members of the council to pressure Myanmar into ceasing military action.
“The United States renews our call on Burma’s security forces to end their violence immediately and support diplomatic efforts for a long-term solution,” he told the council. “President Trump and I also call on this security council and the United Nations to take strong and swift action to bring this crisis to an end.”