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Rohingya crisis

©  UNICEF/UN0213974/Sokol
Rohingya refugee children wade through flood waters surrounding their families' shelters in Shamlapur Makeshift Settlement, Cox's Bazar district, Bangladesh.


Latest: Investing in children should be the foundation of Myanmar’s progress and development, says UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore

Rohingya crisis at a glance

What is the Rohingya crisis?
More than 730,000 Rohingya have been driven into Bangladesh (as of January 2019). Over half of them are children.

How many Rohingya refugees are in Bangladesh?
An estimated 693,000 Rohingya have been driven into Bangladesh (as of April 2018). Over half of them are children.

How is UNICEF helping?
UNICEF is on the ground helping to deliver life-saving supplies and services for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. From January to December 2018, with partners, UNICEF helped the Government provide more than 1.2 million people over 1 year old with an oral cholera vaccine, and provide 380,000 people provided with access to safe drinking water.

>> Read the latest UNICEF situation report: Bangladesh, Myanmar

>> Watch UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra discuss the Rohingya refugee crisis on Facebook live




When hundreds of thousands of terrified Rohingya refugees began flooding onto the beaches and paddy fields of southern Bangladesh in August 2017, it was the children – who made up nearly 60 per cent of their number – who caught many people’s attention.

Today, around 400,000 children who have arrived since August 2017 are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection – and looking to the outside world for help.

Urgent efforts are needed to help the Rohingya children who are threatened either by the approaching cyclone season in Bangladesh or by ongoing violence and denial of their basic rights in Myanmar.

“This is a crisis without a quick fix that could take years to resolve unless there is a concerted effort to address its root causes,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes.

>> Read: Futures in the balance: Building hope for a generation of Rohingya children
>> See: Latest news

UNICEF Image: Rohingya crisis: A Rohingya child in a refugee camp
© UNICEF/UN0160393/Nybo
Muhammad Shafiq, 2, a Rohingya refugee who was severely burned when the Myanmar military set fire to his house in Myanmar, is held by his mother Sasaida, 20, as they wait to be seen by staff at a UNICEF-supported nutrition clinic.


A call to action for all Rohingya children

Everything possible must be done to safeguard the rights of all children affected by this crisis – an obligation both Myanmar and Bangladesh accepted when they ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“People won’t go home unless they are guaranteed safety and security, unless they have citizenship, unless they can send their children to school and have a chance of a future,” said Fontaine. 

The current crisis must be a turning point for coordinated action to address the longstanding violence and discrimination against Rohingya people, to restore and guarantee their rights and help them rebuild their lives. Rohingya children must not be left to languish in hopeless limbo. This is an investment in hope for every child and a better future for the region.

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Rohingya refugee Ismat's parents and four siblings were killed when their village was attacked in Myanmar. As she fled she was raped by two separate groups of soldiers. She is 15 years old.


A crisis of human rights within a humanitarian emergency

“I’d rather die in Bangladesh than be forced to return to Myanmar,” says Aisha, 19, who was raped by soldiers during an attack on her village in Myanmar. Soldiers killed her oldest child, a seven-year-old boy, as the family was trying to flee the violence. “They threw my son in the air and cut him with a machete. Then they threw petrol bombs and burned down our houses.”

The Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh brought with them horrifying accounts of what had triggered their chaotic flight from Myanmar. Tales of savage violence and cruelty, of homes and communities razed to the ground, of children murdered in cold blood, and of women brutally raped.

Independent confirmation of these accounts was hard to come by. But satellite images and the tell-tale smoke seen rising from many border villages left little room for doubt.

In view of the current restrictions on access and movement in northern areas of Rakhine state, it has not been possible for the United Nations or the international community to ascertain that the conditions for the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of refugees exist.

Until the conditions are in place in Myanmar that would allow them to return home as citizens, with their rights and dignity intact, the Rohingya refugees are stuck in Bangladesh – no-one knows for how long.

>> Read: When going to the bathroom takes courage

Thousands of Rohingya refugee children are at risk of malnutrition. UNICEF is providing lifesaving support to children who have endured so much.


In Bangladesh, aid efforts avert catastrophe but new dangers loom

Under the government’s leadership, national and international aid bodies have averted the worst consequences of this human calamity in Bangladesh – for now at least.

UNICEF has played a full part in the response to date in Bangladesh, digging hundreds of water bore wells, and installing thousands of latrines. Learning and recreational spaces for children have been expanded rapidly, but still fall well short of the needs.

Huge challenges remain. The fragile camps – built on sandy soil and steep slopes – must be urgently reinforced to avoid being swept away in the coming cyclone season.

Meanwhile, vulnerable children – and girls in particular – are prey to traffickers and other abuses.

Decongestion of the camps is essential to ensure basic sanitation facilities reach all inhabitants. An outbreak of cholera or acute watery diarrhoea could kill thousands.

UNICEF Image: Rohingya refugee crisis: A drawing by a Rohingya refugee boy depicting soldiers shooting and killing people
© UNICEF/UN0126672/Brown
A drawing by a Rohingya boy reveals the horrific experiences he endured while fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh, October 2017.


Beyond help inside Rakhine State: The children who stayed behind

In Myanmar, the scale of the challenge remains unclear. Only with unimpeded access to all parts of Rakhine State can UNICEF and other humanitarian partners meet the essential protection, health and other needs of the Rohingya who stayed behind.

And without a permanent end to the violence, still more desperate refugees will continue to make their way towards Bangladesh.

But a lasting solution requires more: the recognition of the basic rights of the Rohingya population – ending the legislation, policies and practices that discriminate against them; and curbing the tensions between the different communities in Rakhine State.

Much more must be done to tackle the complex roots of this crisis before its painful repercussions spread further still, and condemn a generation of Rohingya children to a perpetual life in limbo.

UNICEF Image: Rohingya refugee crisis: A child asleep among bags on the floor in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh
© UNICEF/UN0142604/LeMoyne
A child sleeps among bags of personal belongings that were brought by Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, at a shelter near the Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 2017.



22/08/2018: Investment in education desperately needed to avert “lost generation” of Rohingya children
27/07/2018: Rohingya refugee children face onset of deadly monsoon rains
14/06/2018: Powerful monsoon rains hit Rohingya refugee camps, raising risks for thousands of children
24/05/2018: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra meets Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh camps
17/05/2018: More than 60 Rohingya babies born in Bangladesh refugee camps every day
01/05/2018: 55,000 Rohingya refugee children at risk due to floods and landslides as pre-monsoon rains start in Bangladesh
16/03/2018: Geneva Palais briefing note on UNICEF Rohingya Joint Response Plan
23/02/2018: Cyclone season and threat of violence loom over 720,000 Rohingya children in Myanmar and Bangladesh – UNICEF
24/01/2018: More action needed to improve security and humanitarian access in Myanmar if Rohingya children are to return safely
16/01/2018: Half a million Rohingya refugee children at risk in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh with cyclone and monsoon season on horizon
9/01/2018: Briefing note: The situation of children in Rakhine State, Myanmar

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