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Canadian government will match donations for Rohingya refugees

If you've donated between Aug. 25 and Nov. 28, the federal government will make a matching donation to the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund.

Rohingya refugees stand outside makeshift shelters at Thaingkhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on October 30, 2017. More than 600,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since a military crackdown in Myanmar in August triggered an exodus, straining resources in the impoverished country.

TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images

Rohingya refugees stand outside makeshift shelters at Thaingkhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on October 30, 2017. More than 600,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since a military crackdown in Myanmar in August triggered an exodus, straining resources in the impoverished country.

OTTAWA — The federal government said Tuesday it will match private donations made until the end of this month to help ease Bangladesh's massive burden in coping with refugees fleeing from Myanmar.

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Bangladesh is now home to the world's largest refugee camp, with over 900,000 Rohingya and other minorities driven out of Myanmar by ethnic cleansing.

As a result Canada will match, dollar-for-dollar, any donation between Aug. 25 and Nov. 28 to Canadian charities helping in the Rohingya refugee crisis, she said.

The government will make its matching donations to the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund.

An additional 600,000 Rohingya, nearly 70 per cent of them women and children, have fled to Bangladesh since August, Bibeau said.

"We need to respond not only to basic needs like water, food and shelter but offer sexual and reproductive health service for 20,000 pregnant women."

Psychological support is also needed for women and children who have survived sexual violence on their journey, the minister added.

Zia Choudhury, the country director of CARE Bangladesh, said there is a massive need for food, shelter, safe water, medical services and toilets.

"Also, a huge number of women who experienced or witnessed gender-based violence, need treatment and counselling," said Choudhury.

"So far, more than 22,000 orphan children have been registered, who need specialized service and care."

Zaid al-Rawni, of Islamic Relief Canada, said there's only one explanation for the low percentage of men fleeing Myanmar.

"Men are either being rounded up, or in some cases, the women I spoke to, they're saying the men from their villages are being targeted for extrajudicial killings. That's what we're hearing from the refugees."

Canada has committed more than $25 million in humanitarian assistance funding for Bangladesh and Myanmar so far this year. It has also dispatched Bob Rae, the former interim Liberal leader, to the region as a special envoy.

Pat Laberge, of the Canadian Red Cross, said the funding will go a long way to relieve suffering, particularly among female refugees.

"Families are arriving at hospitals and camps after travelling for as many as 14 days. They're exhausted, distressed and traumatized," she said.

Al-Rawni, also the spokesman for the broader Humanitarian Coalition of aid agencies, said that without the money, lives will be lost.

"Without this intervention from the Canadian government ... the next news story, which will be on our news cycle will be about the number of children who are dead because of a cholera outbreak."

The United Nations has asked for more than $434 million in response to the crisis, but remains well short of the goal.

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