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Bangladesh

Rohingya refugee children: UNICEF emergency response in Bangladesh

 

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Read now: Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future

 

 

In the six weeks since violence erupted across Rakhine State, Myanmar, on 25 August 2017, more than half a million people – almost equivalent to the population of The Hague or Manchester – have poured across the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

They have joined the more than 200,000 others who had came in previous cross-border influxes.

Almost 60 per cent of the refugees are children. Many have become separated from their families or fled on their own. All have suffered tremendous loss.

As violence continues in Myanmar, their numbers and their needs grow. The risk of this humanitarian crisis turning into a human catastrophe is all too real.

UNICEF is on the ground working with the Bangladeshi authorities and partners to help meet the Rohingya refugees’ urgent needs.

But the magnitude of the challenge is daunting. This is the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world today – and the world must respond. 

“This crisis is stealing their childhoods,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We must not let it steal their futures at the same time.”

>> Read the UNICEF child alert Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future
>> See latest news

The appeal: urgent funding needed

On 2 October 2017, UNICEF launched a US$76.1 million appeal for its emergency humanitarian response to the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh.

The appeal covered the immediate needs of newly arrived Rohingya children, as well as those who had arrived before the recent influx, and children from vulnerable host communities – 720,000 children in all. As of 19 November 2017, the appeal is only 34 per cent funded.

In Myanmar, UNICEF urgently needs an additional US$13 million to close critical funding gaps that are impacting the organization’s ability to reach vulnerable Rohingya and other displaced children.

>> UNICEF is calling for urgent action to respond to the crisis

UNICEF Image: Rohingya refugees walk ashore after traveling by boat from Myanmar to Bangladesh
© UNICEF/UN0135698/Brown
On 5 September 2017 in Bangladesh, Mohammed Yasin, 8, is amongst the newly arrived Rohingyas living in shelters at a makeshift camp in Cox's Bazar.
 

The response


“The appalling dangers that children here face are plain to see. Living in the open, with food, safe water and sanitation in desperately short supply, the risk of waterborne and other diseases is impossible to ignore.” – UNICEF Bangladesh Representative, Edouard Beigbeder

Protection

Women and children fleeing from Myanmar’s Rakhine State into Bangladesh have reported experiencing or witnessing brutal acts of violence – accounts which point to grave human rights violations.

And the threat to young lives doesn’t end when they cross the border. Other dangers lurk in the disorderly setting of the camps, including traffickers and others looking to exploit and abuse the young and vulnerable.

UNICEF-supported Child Friendly Spaces provide a protective environment that shields vulnerable children against violence, abuse and exploitation. It also shelters them from the chaos and gives them the opportunity to play, learn and just be children. Ninety-seven static and mobile spaces have so far been established and more than 300 adolescent groups in both camps and host communities perform a similar function.

A high priority are the unaccompanied and separated children. Trained social workers manage these cases, and provide them with community-based care while their families are traced.

>> Meet some of the children receiving education and support in the Child Friendly Spaces  

UNICEF Image: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar walk through paddy fields and flooded land
© UNICEF/UN0119956/Brown
On 6 September 2017, newly arrived Rohingya refugees from Myanmar walk through paddy fields and flooded land after they fled over the border to Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
 

Delivering safe water and hygiene

From drilling wells to trucking water, UNICEF and partners have provided more than 180,000 people with access to safe drinking water.

And the challenge ahead is vast: To meet minimum international humanitarian standards, nine million litres of safe water is needed every day to meet the basic requirements of the Rohingya people and affected host communities. That’s almost enough to fill four Olympic swimming pools.

Thousands of emergency latrines must also be installed to protect Rohingya and host populations alike against waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, which can occur when faeces contaminate water sources.

Hygiene kits and hygiene promotion activities, along with simple but vital items like jerry cans, are also urgently needed.

UNICEF Image: A woman and baby in a Rohingya refugee settlement in Bangladesh
© UNICEF Bangladesh/ 2017
A 20-year-old mother and her 10-day-old baby. She fled Myanmar on a makeshift raft made of bamboo and jerry-cans. “I ran from my village a month ago after my husband was killed,” she says. “I gave birth to my baby on the bank of the river in Myanmar.”
 

Holding the line on disease

The congested refugee camps, with only limited clean water and toilets, are an obvious breeding ground for waterborne and other infections. The implications for children are especially alarming.

“What makes things worse is that as far as we know, as few as 3 per cent of the children arriving from Myanmar are properly immunized, whether against measles, polio or other major childhood illnesses,” says UNICEF Bangladesh Chief of Health Maya Vandenent.

An immunization drive against measles and rubella targeted more than 330,000 children. Another campaign to protect the refugees and host communities against the risk of cholera reached almost 900,000 men, women and children.

Fighting malnutrition

As new arrivals are coming from areas in Myanmar with high rates of malnutrition, some have been identified as suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a life-threatening condition that needs urgent treatment. To date, UNICEF and partners have treated more than 4,400 children under 5.

“Based on the screening we have done, we estimate that as many as 6 per cent of newly-arrived children are [severe acute malnutrition] cases in some spontaneous settlements,” says UNICEF Nutrition Officer Monira Parveen. “That is worryingly high.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/UN0126672/Brown
On 2 October 2017, a drawing by a Rohingya boy reveals the horrific experiences he endured while fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
 

Keeping the focus on education

More than 453,000 refugee and host community children aged 4–18 years now need a place to learn.

UNICEF plans to reach up to 150,000 Rohingya children and 50,000 host community children of 4–14 years, while the remainder will be supported by other sector partners.

“It is critical that these children, who have suffered so much in this crisis, should have access to education in a safe and nurturing environment,” says UNICEF Bangladesh Representative, Edouard Beigbeder. “This is critical not just to provide them with a much-needed sense of normalcy now, but so that they can build a future to look forward to.”

Outside one learning centre, Laila Begum is waiting to collect two of her children. She and her husband – a fisherman – have lived in Bangladesh for 10 years. They now share their simple bamboo shelter with seven relatives who fled Myanmar in recent weeks.

“If they learn, they will be able to live their lives properly,” Begum says. Her husband, Noor Alam, nods in agreement. “Wherever we go, the children need knowledge,” he says.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/UN0136204/LeMoyne
On 16 October 2017, exhausted, dehydrated and hungry, Rohingya refugees including women and children cross into Bangladesh from Myanmar.
 

Latest news


25/11/2017: UNICEF plane landed in Sana’a airport today with lifesaving vaccines for children in Yemen
1/11/2017: Urgent measures to improve hygiene practices underway inside Rohingya refugee camps
10/11/2017: Bangladesh steps up vaccination for new Rohingya arrivals as measles cases rise
03/11/2017: Malnutrition rates among Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh appear to be at least double earlier estimates
23/10/2017: Two months since outbreak of violence in Myanmar, Rohingya refugee children still at acute risk
20/10/2017: Violence in Myanmar driving up to 12,000 Rohingya refugee children into Bangladesh every week – UNICEF
10/10/2017: World’s second largest oral cholera vaccination campaign kicks off at Rohingya camps in Bangladesh
04/10/17: Joint statement by Emergency Relief Coordinator and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock and UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake
02/10/17: UNICEF appeals for US$76.1 million to assist children affected by the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh

>> More news

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