Rohingya refugee children face an uncertain future
One year after their mass exodus fleeing violence in Myanmar, Rohingya children in Bangladesh remain at risk.
One year ago, violence in Myanmar forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people – 60 per cent of them children – across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh. Long-deprived of their rights in their homeland and now deprived of their homes and schools, Rohingya refugee children are at risk of becoming a ‘lost generation’. In the cramped, rudimentary refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar district where most of the Rohingya have sought shelter, children have few opportunities to learn and no idea when they might return home. In 2018, the future of more than 500,000 refugee children in Bangladesh hangs in the balance.
Rohingya refugee Hussein Johar, 10, in the Unchiprang camp in Cox's Bazar district works full time mending umbrellas and repairing shoes to help support his family. He has had to give up on his studies. “I can’t go to school because we need the money I make to cover our costs at home,” he said. More than 500,000 Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh are being denied the chance of a proper education.
This Rohingya girl, also in the Unchiprang camp, spends part of her day trudging through the mud to find aid. A massive international relief effort led by the Government of Bangladesh has put basic services for the refugees in place. However, large gaps remain. Many children are still missing out on school – often because they need to help with household chores or work.
Living conditions in the camps in Cox’s Bazar are not only difficult, they are sometimes dangerous. Santara, 8, in the Buluankhuli camp, bathes at the bottom of a hill that is at risk of mudslides. “My house and my children are at the bottom of this danger, Santara’s father, Salamat Ullah, said. A UNICEF learning centre in the camp has already flooded and the mosque next door was also damaged.
For 13-year-old Mohamed Faisal (right) in the Chakmarkul refugee camp, getting an education is far more important than getting a prosthesis to replace the arm he lost during his terrifying escape from Myanmar last year. His left arm was shattered by a bullet when his village was attacked. Lack of schooling is a frequent complaint around the camp, especially among adolescents. “I see the schools here where the younger children go, but there is nothing for boys like me,” Mohamed said.
Investment in education is desperately needed to prevent Rohingya children from becoming a ‘lost generation’. With few opportunities to learn, and with no idea when they might get to go home, they face a bleak future. Girls and adolescents especially are at risk of being excluded. A girl stands on a rocky ledge overlooking shelters in the sprawling Hakimpara refugee camp, home to about 30,480 people.
A Rohingya boy carries a bamboo pole in a Buluankhuli refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar. The wait in line for the bambo0, which the refugees use to strengthen their makeshift shelters, can sometimes take several hours – and takes precious time for learning away from children.
A boy with a UNICEF school bag stands at the top of the ridge line at a bustling junction between the Jomtoli and Hakimpara refugee camps. To better protect Rohingya children, and keep alive their hopes for a better future, a concerted effort is needed to build a new foundation for the rights and opportunities of Rohingya children over the long term. By investing now in education, we can give Rohingya children stability and sense of hope.