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More funds needed to aid Bhutanese refugees after fire destroys camp – UN

More funds needed to aid Bhutanese refugees after fire destroys camp – UN

Bird's-eye view of the devastation caused by fire at Goldhap refugee camp
The United Nations refugee agency today cited an urgent need for funds to provide relief supplies to thousands of Bhutanese refugees who lost their homes and belongings when a devastating fire swept through their camp in eastern Nepal last weekend.

Saturday's fire destroyed 95 per cent of the Goldhap refugee camp and left most of its 9,770 residents homeless, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Nepalese Government, along with UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the local communities, has been providing emergency assistance, including building emergency shelters, water tanks and temporary toilets and distributing food rations for two weeks.

In addition, both the Government and UNHCR have been providing cash grants of up to $32 per family to help refugees with their immediate needs following the fire, whose cause is believed to have been accidental but is still being investigated.

However, more funds are required to assist the affected refugees. “We need $580,000 to rebuild the camp and help the refugees,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva today, adding that the most immediate needs are shelter, water and sanitation, blankets and mosquito nets.

The agency reported that heavy rain has hampered relief efforts over the last few days but supplies continue to be distributed. In addition, health workers are offering medical services especially to children, pregnant and lactating women and those with chronic diseases. Counselling will also be provided to the affected refugees.

Goldhap is one of seven camps in eastern Nepal housing some 108,000 refugees from Bhutan since the early 1990's. UNHCR is considering relocating some families to some of the six other camps to avoid overcrowding, until Goldhap can be rebuilt.