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Our Year 2017

It was an extraordinary year for UNICEF in Bangladesh, one filled with challenges and milestones. As another year approaches, let’s look back at some of our major moments from 2017.

Rohingya exodus: The arrival of over 655,000 people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state. At least 58% of the refugees who crossed perilous border points are children.

The exodus followed the Myanmar army’s ‘cleansing operation’ in Rohingya villages, termed a ‘textbook case of ethnic cleansing’ by the UN. It is the worst crisis to engulf the stateless Muslim minority group.

UNICEF is at the forefront of the crisis at the hilly camp settlements in southeast Bangladesh, working to support children and their families who previously had little or no access to healthcare and education.     

The second largest oral immunisation drive involving 900,000 cholera vaccines are administered, following a WHO warning. As many as 475,299 children were also immunised against measles, mumps, and rubella. 

Malnutrition is a widespread cause of suffering among child refugees. UNICEF has so far treated 9,914 Rohingya children suffering Severe Acute Malnutrition or SAM.

Safe drinking water is made available for 222,600 people mostly through tubewells. At Unchiprang, where there is absence of groundwater, a water treatment plant pumps water from a nearby canal to provide over 100,000 litres per day.

Psychosocial support provided to 114,603 children via counsellors at Child Friendly Spaces and Learning Centres.

Children from 4 to 14 years of age enrolled in emergency non-formal education. As many as 60,780 have been coming to classes. The goal is to reach 201,765 children.

Around 75 percent of total 450,000 targeted population provided access to sanitation facilities through the construction of 11,735 toilets

Facilitating visits by high-powered government representatives, donor delegations, organisations and journalists in refugee camps to enhance understanding and coverage of the issue.

Fighting child marriage: Bangladesh has one of the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world. Here, the lives of about 23,000 children under the age of five can be saved each year if women did not give birth while still below the age of 20.

An intractable issue, the practice of marrying off children is associated with multiple factors including education of parents and children, economic status of families, social and cultural influences.

But there is now a convergence of national and international political determination to eradicate the practice in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has initiated the work to develop the National Plan of Action (NPA) to End Child Marriage.

A national multimedia campaign has been designed with the technical and financial support from UNICEF, UNFPA and CIDA to create awareness and influence social, behavioural and normative change. Since the start of the campaign on July 18 and Aug 17, 2017, the campaign has reached 26.65 million people, one sixth of Bangladesh’s total population, while engaging 4.84 million people.

Specific campaign objectives

  • Framing of issue
  • Creating an overall climate of ‘intolerance’/ unacceptability/ community disapproval
  • Initiate collective change through individual action

Children’s Day: As UNICEF prepared to launch a global kids takeover on Nov 20, the aim in Bangladesh was to let refugee Rohingya children start their own conversations.

Children re-enact an army raid: Young girls from a UNICEF-supported adolescents’ club in the refugee settlements performed a play to show how Myanmar soldiers raided their homes. The play ends with some of the actors attempting to cross the Naf, the river that borders between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

On photo hunts: Thirteen Rohingya children spent over an hour hunting for shots with a digital camera and then returned from their journeys to say why they chose their favourite subjects.   


Bangladeshi kids voice concern: Twenty Bangladeshi children from, Bangladesh’s first news service by children, who also represent the host Cox’s Bazar community, visited the refugee camps to report and interact with the dwellers.

They produced video reports on emergency education, cultural practice of the Rohingya, threat of disease, women’s hygiene, sexual violence and more. They then participated in a live TV discussion to raise some of the issues that moved them about the situation of Rohingya children.  

Boom on social media: UNICEF Bangladesh reached 1.7 million followers, a big jump from 25,000 in March, placing third among UNICEF pages globally.

In 2017, our posts reached 282 million people, engaged with 23.5 million people and our videos were viewed by 36.6 million people through Facebook page on issues like Ending Child Marriage, early childhood development, child labour and Rohingya refugee crisis.

Furthermore, the Meena Game was downloaded by half a million users this year. And new levels, from 12 to 14, are now available.    

Meena Media Award!: For 12 years, UNICEF has been awarding creative and journalistic work that explore the lives of children and promote their rights in Bangladesh.

This year saw over 700 submission from across the country in the categories of Print/Online, Radio, News photography and Visual Media.

Minister of Information Hasanul Haq Inu, and Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Bangladesh, handed out the awards to three winners in each category and to participants both aged below and over 18 years.

The judges have been scanning the submissions for two months. They are writer Selina Hossain, Dhaka University professors Fahmidul Huq and Robaet Ferdous, BBC journalist Qadir Kallol, Ekattor TV journalist Mithila Farzana, Independent University professor Zakir Hossain Raju, Reuters photographer Rafiqur Rahman, senior photographers Jannatul Mawa and Abu Naser Siddique.

No award ceremony is complete without entertainment and the Meena Media Award is also not itself without performances by its special child artists! The performances got a makeover this year!

Child artists from Aparajeyo Bangladesh, a national organisation for underprevilaged children, and Pidim theatre dazzled with more energetic routines.

Arifa, an 18-year-old choreographed the much-loved dance performances by Aparajeyo. Live video of the programme was viewed over 20,000 times on Facebook, reaching over 75,000 people.    

“I’ve been living at Aparajeyo’s shelter since I was nine. I love dancing so my teachers’ got be enrolled at the Bangladesh Academy of Fine Arts. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos, and learn moves from there and then teach the younger children,” she said.

“If I am still here next year, I will prepare a bigger surprise for you guys!”   



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