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Rohingya crisis: Donors pledge $344 million at UN-backed conference to support aid efforts

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A United Nations-supported humanitarian conference today raised more than $344 million to fund critical relief programmes for Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh.

The exodus – which began in late August – continues unabated, making the crisis the fastest growing refugee emergency in the world today. As of Sunday, some 603,000 refugees are estimated to have arrived in Bangladesh and thousands more reportedly remain stranded in Myanmar without the means to cross the border.

“Humanitarian donors have today expressed their solidarity and compassion with the families and communities in need,” said Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“These very generous pledges must now quickly translate into life-saving relief for the vulnerable refugees and support to host communities who have been stretched to the limit,” he added.

Since the crisis began, UN agencies have ramped up their relief efforts, including conducting a massive immunization campaign that inoculated more than 700,000 people against cholera, as well as providing food assistance to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

However, the scale of the crisis has overwhelmed the response, and emergency shelters, blankets, clean water, health care and other forms of aid are urgently needed. Adding to the complexity is that Bangladesh was already hosting about 200,000 Rohingya refugees prior to the crisis.

“More than 800,000 stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh aspire to a life that meets their immediate needs for food, medicine, water, and shelter. But beyond that, a life that has hope for the future where their identity is recognised, they are free from discrimination, and are able to return safely to their homes in Myanmar,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“As we come together in solidarity, I want to thank Bangladesh and its refugee-hosting communities and the donors for supporting them,” he added.

There were a total of 35 pledges made today, including money pledged and committed since 25 August as well as new announcements. Several donors also announced in-kind assistance worth more than $50 million. Fundraising campaigns are also underway in several countries.

One such initiative is the UN World Food Programme’s app ShareTheMeal, which launched a worldwide campaign on Sunday to raise funds to feed Rohingya refugee children and provide them with vital nutrition with a simple tap on their phones.

The pledging conference was co-organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It was co-hosted by the European Union and the Government of Kuwait.

Also speaking today, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing underscored that while sustainable life-saving assistance for the refugee population in Bangladesh needs to be ensured, the root causes of the crisis need to be addressed.

“We must urge international leaders to support the peaceful resolution of this decade-long crisis in Myanmar and insist that the authorities create conditions of safety, security and dignity in Rakhine state to one of the world’s most persecuted populations,” he said.

Adding that the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission offer a way forward to peaceful co-existence, Mr. Swing underscored that the implementation must start immediately and that the first step is to allow humanitarians to resume their work in the northern part of Rakhine state.

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The World Bank Strengthens Support to Argentina’s Most Vulnerable Families

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The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a new US$ 300 million operation to support Argentina’s efforts to strengthen its social protection system and minimize the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable families.

The additional US$300 million in financing for the “Children and Youth Protection Project” seeks to improve coverage of family allowance programs administered by the National Social Security Administration (ANSES) and to accelerate the process to include 350,000 children who are still not covered by the Universal Child Allowance (AUH). It will also support the introduction of improvements in ANSES processes to guarantee continued coverage, especially when a parent loses a formal job.

“We appreciate the support of the World Bank in one of the topics on the agenda of the national government’s strategic priorities, which is to accompany those who have the least. This project advances in that direction,”. said Gustavo Beliz, Argentina’s Strategic Planning Secretary.

“Argentina is struggling with Covid 19, which creates new public investment demands. In response to this difficult health and financial situation, the World Bank is supporting investments to protect the most vulnerable population,” said Jordan Schwartz, World Bank Director for Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. “This financing aims to make the social protection system more inclusive and effective, and to prevent families from slipping into poverty, or assisting them once that has occurred.”

The World Bank has supported the AUH program since it was first implemented in 2009. The program forms part of the broader ANSES family allowance system. This benefit is paid for each child under age 18 whose parents are unemployed or informally employed, or who are independent workers or domestic workers and who earn less than the minimum wage. Currently, more than four million children receive the AUH benefit and nearly nine million are covered by the group of family allowances. Participation in the program has increased beneficiaries’ school attendance and fulfilment of medical checkups.

Since 2016, the “Children and Youth Protection Project” has successfully contributed to closing AUH coverage gaps. Initially, over 1.5 million children could not be included in the eligibility process of ANSES programs – today the challenge is to include the 350,000 remaining children.

The additional project financing is a variable-spread loan with a 32-year maturity period and a seven-year grace period.

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Mongolia: World Bank Mobilizes $2.2 Million to Strengthen Medical Diagnostic Services

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The World Bank mobilized US$2.2 million to help strengthen Mongolia’s hospital services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be used to purchase the most needed medical diagnostic equipment in the country.

This immediate financing is being provided under the ongoing E-health project which seeks to improve integration and utilization of health information and e-health solutions for better health service delivery in selected pilot sites.

This immediate financing will help Mongolia safeguard its people from the potential COVID-19 outbreak in the country and make sure that they have access to early diagnosis and care,” – said the World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia Andrei Mikhnev.

Diagnostic equipment procured under this funding include 15 stationary and 12 mobile digital X-ray equipment and 41 ultrasound machines. Deliveries are expected in the beginning of April.

“We believe that this additional  equipment would strengthen the country preparedness to deal with disease outbreaks like COVID-19,” – said Dinesh Nair, Senior Health Specialist of the World Bank. “We will continue actively engaging with the government to help strengthen health systems, disease surveillance, and diagnosis.

On March 17, the World Bank Group also    pledged  $14 billion in immediate support to assist countries coping with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. This financing is designed to help member countries, among them Mongolia, take effective action to respond to, and, where possible, lessen the tragic impacts posed by the global pandemic.

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Peru Will Receive US$ 50M from the World Bank to Strengthen Key Social Protection

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The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a US$ 50 million loan to strengthen key policies and strategies to increase human capital accumulation in Peru, particularly in the most vulnerable social sectors.

The Human Capital Development Program will focus on improving the delivery of social protection and early childhood development services, especially at the local level, and in strengthening professional development and management systems in education. Guaranteeing access to quality social protection, health and education services throughout the lifecycle is crucial for ensuring that individuals can develop the basic knowledge and skills they need to become productive members of society.

Over the past two decades, Peru has sharply reduced its poverty and inequality rates. It has also made significant strides in education and learning, as well as in decreasing chronic malnutrition and in implementing early childhood development policies. Notwithstanding, the country needs to reinforce its investments in human capital to further narrow inequality gaps and to guarantee that prosperity reaches all social sectors.

“The Peruvian government has undertaken the challenge of making multisector efforts to guarantee that all children reach their enormous potential and that they can become key players in the country’s development,” saidMarianne Fay, the World Bank Director forBolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The World Bank is accompanying Peru in this effort. “We provide technical and financial assistance for development policies that invest in people and that help to unlock and accelerate the generation of human capital, as well as to create synergies in the investments made in early childhood development to maximize results,” she added.

To this end, the program seeks to improve the comprehensive delivery of social protection and early childhood development services, as well as education quality and management. It will also support priority political and institutional reforms in the social sector and the linkage of policies implemented by the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion and the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of the Economy and Finance will implement the program using a multisectoral and territorial approach, in close coordination with the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion and the Ministry of Education.

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