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  1. ITV Report

DEC launches fundraising appeal as 500,000 Rohingya Muslims flee violence in Myanmar

A major fundraising appeal has been launched to help the hundreds of thousands of mainly Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar.

The UN has described the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar as "ethnic cleansing" with more than half-a-million people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh in the wake of violence from nationalist militias, who have torched dozens of villages in Rakhine State, killing and gang raping Muslims in the their path.

The violence began after clashes between insurgents and security forces in August.

The 13 member charities who make up the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) have launched the appeal in a bid to step up their humanitarian relief as hundreds of thousands of displaced people seek medical care, food and sanctuary.

Eighteen-month-old Mohammed was badly burnt when his family's home was set on fire. Credit: ITV News

The UK Government has pledged to match the first £3 million donated by the public to the DEC emergency appeal which launched on Wednesday.

DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said: "People are arriving exhausted and traumatised into already overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.

"This is one of the fastest movements of people we have seen in recent decades.

"Families are living in makeshift shelters or by the side of the road with no clean drinking water, toilets or washing facilities.

"This humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in a country that is already reeling from the worst floods in decades.

"Without urgent support, the risk of disease and further misery is alarmingly high."

The Rohingya are taking shelter in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Credit: PA

While DEC member charities are already on the ground in Bangladesh delivering emergency aid, they say they need more funding in order to be able to reach people in urgent need.

The civilian leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced growing international condemnation for her refusal to condemn the actions of Myanmar's security forces, instead arguing that there has been "an iceberg of misinformation" surrounding the reports from refugees of their villages being burned and of people being slaughtered.

However, last week the Nobel Peace Prize winner said the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar will be allowed to return, and gave her "strong commitment" during a meeting with Foreign Office Minister Mark Field.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Credit: PA

International Development Secretary Priti Patel said: "I am appalled that more than half a million Rohingya have been forced to flee their homes because of the horrific violence in Burma.

"Those who escaped, carrying little or nothing, have had to make the treacherous journey across the border into Bangladesh to seek safety, with countless people dying or losing loved ones.

"The relentless denial of aid is a matter of life and death for those still in northern Rakhine.

"It is utterly intolerable that the military who are responsible for this inhumane catastrophe have not heeded calls for restraint, and pleas to allow those who are now refugees to return safely to their homes."

How to donate to the appeal:

  • Online at www.dec.org.uk
  • By phoning the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 610
  • Over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or by sending a cheque
  • Texting the word SUPPORT to 70000 will donate £5