Canada's Minister of International Development Karina Gould has recalled the excellent bilateral development cooperation between Bangladesh and Canada over the years and appreciated Bangladesh's contribution to this relationship.
"Canada and Bangladesh have a very long standing relationship and deep friendship. We have worked in development (area) for a very long time," she said in an exclusive interview with UNB's Director Nahar Khan.
The Canadian Minister highlighted the existing programmes and cooperation amid Covid-19 pandemic terming the bilateral relationship a very important one.
She said her country will continue to be a strong voice in standing up for the human rights of the Rohingya people, making way for a peaceful life.
The Canadian Minister said they remain engaged with the Rohingya crisis and will make sure that the international community continues to play an important role so Rohingyas can live in peace and security.
"We do remain committed to a political solution. We remain committed to working together with all parties to provide a peaceful solution to the crisis," Minister Gould said.
Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017 amid military crackdowns against them in Myanmar's Rakhine State.
An influx of the Rohingya people into Bangladesh from Myanmar is still seen today. In April this year, members of the Bangladesh Coast Guard rescued 396 Rohingya people from a boat which was denied entry by Malaysia.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said the Rohingyas who arrived by boat recently are mostly registered with the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar district.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh sent a small group of Rohingyas, who entered Bangladesh recently from Myanmar in small boats, to Bhasan Char Island.
The decision had been taken aiming to keep Rohingya camps free from coronavirus.
"Bangladesh has shouldered very heavy responsibilities for the Rohingya refugees and must not be left alone to deal with these challenges," Steven Corliss, UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh, told UNB.
Responding to a question, Canadian Minister Gould said they are grateful to Bangladesh for being so welcoming towards the Rohingya people and recognise the "extraordinary efforts" of Bangladesh.
She mentioned that the Canadian parliament unanimously adopted a resolution recognising that the crimes committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar that constitute genocide.
Minister Gould said Canada provided about $88 million in humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya refugees and also provided about $82 million in direct assistance to the host communities around Cox's Bazar recognising that it is important to support them at the same time.
Canada's Support Amid Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic is a global threat that does not recognize borders and can only be overcome through coordinated action all around the world.
The death toll and number of new patients are rising every day in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has far recorded 98,489 cases taking the death toll to 1,305 (as of June 17).
So far three Rohingyas died due to coronavirus at Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar district. The first death of a Rohingya refugee, a 71 year-old male, from Covid-19 was confirmed on May 31.
The World Health Organization, UNHCR and other government and non government organisations are working round the clock to ensure that testing is available to refugees, those who are identified as Covid-19 positive have adequate facilities in place to care for them, and to ensure contact tracing and isolation of those who may have been exposed.
Canada continues to contribute to international efforts to address the ongoing pandemic by providing urgent and necessary funding, including to support those who are most vulnerable.
Canada's Minister of International Development announced initial allocation of $159.5 million in funding to support international efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
This investment includes $50 million announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier in March.
Asked about some of the measures at the global stage, the Candian Minister said at the beginning of April, she was pleased to announce Canada's initial response to Covid-19 crisis by announcing $159.5 million to respond to both humanitarian needs as well as a vaccine development.
She said they know that the key interventions for the world will be the development and implementation of a vaccine.
"Of the $159.5 million, $84.5 million was for the humanitarian response, primarily going through UN agencies and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies," she said.
Then, the Canadian Minister said, they also announced $40 million for the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovation which is coordinating global research and development for vaccine.
"We also announced $30 million to respond to the bilateral requests that we are getting from all around the world to support their specific national responses," she said adding that this in addition to gheir existing humanitarian development funding.
Of those $30 million for bilateral assistance, $2 million of that is going to Bangladesh, $500,000 are going to top up an agreement that they have with Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee for Covid-19 response in Cox's Bazar and host communities and surrounding areas, said Minister Gould.
She said $1.5 million is going to top up the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Dsease Research Bangladesh to support national surveillance and labs testing. "Because we know the most important strategy to help contain spread of the virus is to make sure that there's adequate testing but that requires laboratory capacity as well."
Responding to a question on Canada's support for Bangladesh to deal with the Covid-19, Minister Gould said in addition to the existing programme that they have, Canada provided an initial top up to try and assist both with testing and laboratory capacity throughout the country.
"And a specific top up for the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar," she said.
The Canadian Minister said the most important strategy is to help contain spread of the virus to make sure that there is adequate testing with laboratory capacity as well.
Global Vaccine Summit
While discussing with Nahar Khan on the Global Vaccine Summit held in London, Minister Gould said, "We're all really encouraged and pleased by the Vaccine Summit that took place."
She laid emphasis on working together to achieve the goals ahead and Agenda 2030 ensuring access to healthcare services for everyone.
World leaders pledged an additional US$ 8.8 billion for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, far exceeding the target of US$ 7.4 billion.
The funding will help immunise 300 million more children in the world's poorest countries against diseases like measles, polio and diphtheria by the end of 2025.
It will also support health systems to withstand the impact of coronavirus and maintain the infrastructure necessary to roll out a future Covid-19 vaccine on a global scale.
The pledges were made at the Global Vaccine Summit 2020, hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Representatives from 52 countries, including 35 Heads of State, joined leaders from global health organisations, the private sector, vaccine manufacturers and civil society organisations to support the Vaccine Alliance's work protecting almost half the world's children against deadly, preventable infectious diseases.
Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have warned that 80 million children under the age of one are at risk of disease due to disruptions to vital immunisation programmes because of Covid-19.
The Canadian Minister also talked about Bangladesh-Canada bilateral relations.