Rohingya children bearing brunt of COVID disruptions in Bangladesh refugee camps as education facilities remain closed

25 August 2020
Bangladesh. Children study inside.

KATHMANDU/DHAKA, 24 August 2020 Three years since hundreds of thousands fled violence and persecution in Myanmar, Rohingya refugee children and families in Cox’s Bazar District of Bangladesh are now facing new challenges. In spite of incredibly difficult circumstances, the refugee population is actively participating in response efforts to prevent and manage the threat of COVID-19 in the camps. 

“Rohingya refugee children and families have shown extraordinary resilience while living in exile in Bangladesh,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia. “Despite unimaginably difficult circumstances – exacerbated by monsoon rains and the global pandemic – these families continue to teach us each day what strength, courage and perseverance are.”

COVID-19 continues to disrupt life for more than 460,000 Rohingya refugee children living in Cox’s Bazar District.  Education facilities in the camps have been closed since March as is the case in the rest of the country.  Around 315,000 Rohingya refugee children and adolescents have been out of their learning centres. UNICEF and partners continue efforts to help children learn at home, engaging parents and caregivers to support learning and providing workbooks and visual aids.  Rohingya volunteer teachers have played a central role while at the same time delivering COVID-19 health and hygiene messages.

As a result, a recent survey found that 77 per cent of children were engaged in caregiver-led learning activities at home. However, significant challenges remain, including the fact that many parents cannot read and write, and UNICEF continues to explore alternative ways to keep children connected to education and information.

“Rohingya refugee children need opportunities to develop knowledge and skills for their future.  That in turn will enable them to contribute to peace and stability,” said Jean Gough.

With the reduction of humanitarian workers going to the camps   in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations have established new ways to deliver critical services. Rohingya volunteers and Bangladeshi personnel have been essential to these efforts, connecting communities to critical services and information to protect against COVID-19.

Last month, UNICEF and partners launched a door-to-door Vitamin A supplementation campaign. Rohingya volunteers proved vital in reaching 154,000 children aged 6 months to 5 years.  The campaign covered 97 per cent of the target children, a remarkable outcome considering the current situation and the heavy monsoon rainfall.

As Rohingya children from Myanmar enter their fourth year as refugees in Bangladesh, efforts must be redoubled to secure a return that is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable. 

UNICEF reaffirms its gratitude to the Government and people of Bangladesh who gave protection and shelter to the Rohingya people when they needed it most. UNICEF calls upon the international community to continue its generous support to both refugee and Bangladeshi communities in Cox’s Bazar as needs become even more pressing during COVID-19, and to sustain the hopes and dreams of refugee children for a better future.

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Joe English
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Bangladesh. Rohingya children wash their hands.

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