24th August 2020 | Save the Children
Save the Children analysed population data from the refugee camps in Bangladesh – starting in August 2017 – and in the displacement camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, since 2012, to mark three years since more than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in the wake of brutal violence which the UN has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
These children are living in conditions not suitable for children, with limited access to education and healthcare, no freedom of movement and almost entirely dependent on aid.
Using data from the UN refugee agency for Cox’s Bazar up until 31 May 2020, the children’s aid agency found there are currently an estimated 75,971 children under three years in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar – or nine percent of the total refugee population. The implication is almost all of them were born after their mothers fled to Bangladesh – some of whom will have had to flee horrific acts of violence while pregnant.
More than 1 million Rohingya refugees are living in Bangladesh, and nearly half of these are children.
Three-year-old *Runa was born during her mother’s arduous journey across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border as they fled for their lives. *Runa has suffered from chronic undernutrition her whole life.
“I’m worried about my children’s education, their future, their behaviour,” *Runa’s mother, *Hamida Begum, told Save the Children. “I can’t give them whatever they ask for as we don’t have money. We can’t fulfil their dreams. We can’t love and take care of them properly. That’s why I feel very sad. I can’t provide them with good food. When they ask for anything, I can’t give it to them.”
In Myanmar, displacement camps in Rakhine State have been housing Rohingya Muslims as well as Kaman Muslims since 2012 following previous waves of ethnic violence. Using UNHCR data from Myanmar up to December 2019, Save the Children estimates there are 32,066 children under seven years of age spread across 21 camps, representing over 25 percent of the displaced population.
Khadija* has seven children, two of whom were born after she was forced into a camp for internally displaced people following ethnic violence between the Rohingya and Rakhine communities in 2012.
“I have children whom I need to look after. I need to feed them, send them to school, so I need to manage somehow,” she told Save the Children.
“We suffered a lot after we came here. We couldn't eat, sleep or provide medicine to our children. The government persecuted us. They burned houses and burned some people alive in the market. We didn't expect to escape alive with our children.”
Onno van Manen, Bangladesh Country Director for Save the Children, said:
“Over the past three years more than 75,000 children have been born in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. The birth of a child is a joyous occasion, but these children have drawn the short straw – born into a life where their families can’t work, where they have limited access to education and healthcare, and no freedom of movement.
“We teach our children to dream big, but for a child who knows nothing but a refugee camp, many of their hopes and dreams will seem out of reach. The people and government of Bangladesh welcomed the refugees when they fled violence in their home country, but three years on we are no closer to a sustainable solution to this refugee crisis.
“Rohingya children and families must be able to return to their homes in Myanmar voluntarily and in a safe and dignified manner. World leaders – particularly those with close ties to Myanmar – must do everything they can to encourage a swift resolution to this crisis. We can’t allow the years to pile up and for children to spend their entire childhoods in confinement.”
Keyan Salarkia, Conflict and Humanitarian Adviser for Save the Children UK, said:
“Three years since the latest wave of violence against the Rohingya, those responsible are yet to be held to account and approximately half a million children have been left in limbo in the camps of Cox’s Bazar. For the tens of thousands of Rohingya children still in Rakhine State, things are getting worse not better.
“With a seat at the world’s most powerful table – the UN Security Council – as well as strong diplomatic ties to both Bangladesh and Myanmar, the UK has both the means and opportunity to act as a force for good and stand with Rohingya children.
“The UK government can act in three ways. First, they must use their influence to ensure those responsible for atrocities against the Rohingya are held to account in an impartial court of law. Second, the UK can work with the Government of Myanmar to ensure they deliver lasting and sustainable reforms. Third, the UK must continue its role as a humanitarian champion providing life-saving support to the hundreds of thousands of children living in camps across both Myanmar and Bangladesh.”
Spokespeople are available in Bangladesh, Myanmar and the UK.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Save the Children supports over 230,000 people from various ethnic and religious communities in central Rakhine state, which includes some 130,000 displaced Rohingya and Kaman people across 21 displacement camps The aid agency provides support to the community in several ways, through programmes in education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, cash transfers and child protection services.
- Save the Children has been working in Myanmar since 1995, across nine states in the country. Its programmes in Myanmar include: improving children’s access to health and nutrition; ensuring all children in Myanmar are protected from harm; upholding children’s rights; ensuring every child receives quality education; addressing household poverty.
- Save the Children is one of the leading International aid agencies in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, having reached a total of 853,140 Rohingya refugees and members of the host community, including over 469,430 children, since the escalation of the crisis in August 2017.
- Save the Children has more than 1,300 staff and volunteers supporting its Rohingya Response programmes in child protection, access to education, health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as distribution of shelter and food items.
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