In an interview with dpa, Australian actress Cate Blanchett expresses grave concerns for Rohingya refugees, who are threatened by the effects of monsoon rains in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
New Delhi - Cate Blanchett, a two-time Academy Award-winning actress and UN Goodwill ambassador, recently travelled to refugee camps accommodating Rohingya Muslims in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. There she witnessed a humanitarian crisis which is set to worsen with seasonal monsoon rain and winds.
"People only pay attention at the beginning of a humanitarian crisis," Blanchett said. "After a few weeks it becomes old."
Nearly 700 000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar's military launched an offensive against suspected Rohingya militants in northern Rakhine State on August 25.
Blanchett received the Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos for her work raising awareness about refugee issues in January.
The threat of monsoon season poses "a disaster within a disaster" for the Rohingya refugees, Blanchett said, speaking of a vast number of traumatized people living in a precarious situation.
Blanchett describes a scene of a woman living in a makeshift shelter on the side of a hill in Cox's Bazar who doesn't even feel like she can unpack her survival kit of blankets provided by the UNHCR because of the coming monsoon that will likely wash her dwelling away.
Rohingya are "one of the most persecuted and fragile peoples," Blanchett said. Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, meaning that most Rohingya are stateless and have restricted access to health care, education and jobs.
According to Blanchett, "waves and waves of displacement" mean that some Rohingya have been refugees their entire lives, even into the second generation. More than 50 per cent of the refugees are under the age of 18, Blanchett said.
The refugees are "so resilient," the actress said, adding that there was hope to be found in the camps: Some adults have been trained to manufacture sanitary pads, and adults try to educate their children against all odd.
But Blanchett warns of a disaster waiting to happen if the international community continues to ignore Rohingya.
"Without the international community's financial and emotional support... we have seen what has happened in Syria... we do not want to create a similar situation."
She appeals to the public for a change in attitude towards refugees, to the Rohingya and beyond.
"These people are not terrorists, they are fleeing the terrorists," she said.dpa