370,000 Rohingya children living in refugee camps for Ramadan

 

14 May 2018

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children are preparing to face their first Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr as refugees in Bangladesh, missing much of the celebration that normally accompanies this festive and holy month for Muslims.

“Ramadan is usually a time of fasting during the day, breaking the fast at dusk with family with special foods, and spending time in prayer and reflection. Instead, for newly-arrived refugees facing deprivation in squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar, this will be a Ramadan to remember for all the wrong reasons,” said Dr. Ishtiaq Mannan, Save the Children’s Deputy Country Director in Bangladesh. 

“This year we’ll see 370,000 children spending their most important celebration far from home, in hot, flimsy huts made of bamboo and plastic. Many Rohingya children in Bangladesh have recently fled horrific violence in Myanmar, witnessing widespread and extreme violence.

“The Bangladesh Government should be acknowledged for their generosity, however there are now fears for children ahead of the brutal monsoon season, the onset of which is already wreaking havoc in the camps. On top of this many children risk contracting deadly diseases, missing out on education, and have no choice but to play in dirt and mud for lack of other options.

“Many children also suffered grave injuries during the violence in Myanmar, which has left them permanently scarred. Some lost loved ones – parents, siblings and friends – and this will be their first Ramadan without them.”

In the camps where almost 700,000 Rohingya people have taken shelter since August 2017, many barely have enough food for three meals a day.

“All Rohingya refugees in the camps rely on food rations from agencies like Save the Children to survive. With support from World Food Programme, we have been providing families with food like rice, lentils, and oil to get them through each day. We also provide all children under five with a special high-nutrient cereal which helps them grow healthily,” added Dr. Ishtiaq.

For Senoara*, a 12-year-old Rohingya girl who has lived in the refugee camps since October, the thought of Ramadan brings both happiness and concern.

“I am feeling very happy that Ramadan is here again. But I’m also very worried about our tiredness because it’s too hot,” Senoara* told Save the Children staff.

“Our house is made of plastic and bamboo, so it gets very hot during the day. Normally, in Myanmar, if it gets very hot in the house we go outside and sit under a tree. But in the camps, there are no trees. We have nowhere to go when it gets very hot.”

The first rains of the year have already hit the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, flooding roads, hampering access and making the situation even more desperate. Heavy rain and high winds have regularly been rolling through the camps, with more than three metres of rain are expected by the end of September.

“Our message to governments and institutional donors around the world is simple: do not forget about Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, particularly during the monsoon season,” Dr Ishtiaq said.

ENDS

 

Notes to editor:

  • Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer and celebration of family. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations. Muslims are also instructed to refrain from sinful behavior during this period. The period is highlighted by food and drinks consumed before dawn and after sunset, referred to as Suhoor and Iftar respectively. Eid-ul-Fitr is the celebration that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Eid-ul-Fitr is marked by family gatherings, eating traditional sweet dishes, wearing new clothes, and giving gifts.
  • The exact dates of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr vary from year to year, based on visual sightings of the crescent moon.
  • The Rohingya are commonly reported as being among the most persecuted groups on earth, with more than 128,000 confined to camps in Myanmar’s central Rakhine state for the past five years. In the last nine months almost 700,000 Rohingya have also fled from northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown following attacks on Myanmar police border posts.
  • Save the Children has been responding to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Cox’s Bazar since 2012. Following the latest arrival of nearly 700,000 refugees following a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar, the aid agency dramatically scaled up operations, reaching more than 637,000 newly arrived Rohingya, including through distributions of food, hygiene, shelter and household items, by setting up ten emergency health posts, installing more than 500 latrines and 30 deep tube wells, and running over nearly 100 centres  that support children’s wellbeing and learning in their mother tongue, Rohingya.

Interviews in Cox's Bazar are available. For any enquiries please contact Dan Stewart on D.Stewart@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 (0)20 3763 0119 / out of hours: +44(0)7831 650409