A rapid escalation of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people to flee to Bangladesh. The majority are children. What are they experiencing as they flee their homes and arrive in Bangladesh?
Here’s what you need to know about the Rohingya crisis
A child caught up in the current crisis is one of 400,000 Rohingya who have had to flee Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh between 24 August and 24 September.
This is a huge number in a very short space of time. We were already on the ground providing support to people who had fled earlier outbreaks of violence, but the speed and scale of recent arrivals means the humanitarian needs are massive. We urgently need more support to help children and families.
The Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, in the southeast of the country, is – for the time being – the closest thing children have to a home. Children and families are staying in one of two government-run camps in Cox’s Bazar, six spontaneous camps that have gone up in the past few weeks, or with members of the local community. Save the Children has distributed tarpaulins and ropes, so people with nothing can build shelters for their families.
Children are the majority. It’s estimated that 60% of the Rohingya who have had to flee violence are under 18. For every five people caught up in this crisis, three are children. As they look around at their situation, they will see they’re surrounded by other kids, who are no doubt just as scared and just as confused as them.
They have had to walk through rain and mud to find safety, many with nothing to protect their bare feet. The journey will have taken children and families days, in weather that has fluctuated between hot and humid, and torrential rain. The combination has created grim, muddy conditions, that make travel difficult.
They’ve witnessed horrifying events, which they’ll need support to process and recover from. Children have shared shocking stories with us. They talk of burning villages and having to dodge gunfire. They’ve seen their homes on fire and people killed. Save the Children is providing safe spaces where children can play, recover and be children again.
Hundreds of children have arrived alone, having become separated from their families in the chaos of escape or because their family members were killed. In crises like this one, children with no one to look after them are the most vulnerable, and are at increased risk of exploitation and trafficking. In the two camps in Cox’s Bazar, children receive 24-hour support and protection from Save the Children, while attempts are made to find living family members.
When children arrive in Cox’s Bazar, they are hungry and exhausted, and most have have no food or water. Save the Children is on the ground providing desperately needed food, as well as hygiene kits to help stop the spread of disease, which is a danger that’s always present in cramped, crowded conditions.
Education needs to be part of the response, for children’s development and well-being. As well as immediate priorities, such as water, food and shelter, it’s vital that children still learn. Not only does education give children desperately needed respite from the crisis happening around them – away from the dangers of potential exploitation and abuse – it also provides activities that help them cope with their traumatic experiences. When children are stuck in the middle of a crisis, education helps children imagine a brighter future and gives them a chance of getting there.
Children and families need more help. Without it, the suffering will worsen and children’s lives will be lost. This is a huge humanitarian emergency and more needs to be done.There are thousands of people still sleeping out in the open. Children are malnourished. Disease is an ever-present threat. Please do what you can to help our teams on the ground reach those who need us most.
Rohingya children need your help now. Please donate today.
Images: Maria de la Guardia / Save the Children