Rohingya children face new peril as temperatures drop with onset of winter
Cox’s Bazar, December 21 - Rohingya children in camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh urgently need warm clothes and blankets as overnight temperatures drop with the onset of winter, Save the Children is warning.
January and February are Bangladesh’s coldest months with night time temperatures falling as low as 10 degrees Celsius, yet in the camps it is common to see barefooted children wearing only thin cotton clothing, shorts and t-shirts. Most sleep on the floor in poorly constructed bamboo structures with nothing but flimsy plastic sheeting and very thin blankets to protect them from the cold at night.
As winter temperatures continue to drop, fears are growing that we could see more children, many of whom have already been weakened by malnutrition, suffer from illnesses such as upper respiratory infections.
Khaleda*, an 11-year-old girl from an eleven-person family in Balukhali camp told Save the Children:
"It is very difficult to sleep because it is very cold at night. We have no option but to sleep on the mattress on the dirt floor. And we have only four blankets, two for girls, two for boys but it is not sufficient for us all. The roof is always dripping water in the morning from the mist, so it makes everything wet."
A recent survey of 200 children in the camps revealed that many are very cold at night.
A 16-year-old boy consulted for the survey in Kutupalong camp told Save the Children:
"We do not have any warm clothes to wear. We also do not have any blankets. So we are suffering from the cold weather and are getting coughs and fever.”
Save the Children will distribute winter kits to 7,000 families (31,000 people) by the end of December in preparation for the coldest winter months. Winter kits contain blankets, shawls for adults, children’s pullovers, slippers for adults and children as well as a floor mat.
Save the Children’s shelter expert in Bangladesh, Bishnu Prasad Gotame, said:
“Our focus is to reach the most vulnerable children and women. The winter kits will be given to people with chronic illnesses, people with disabilities, families with pregnant women, infants and families with elderly people.”
Since the end of August 655,000 Rohingya have fled extreme violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State to the camps in Bangladesh. Many of them fled with only their clothes on their backs. Of those that have fled an estimated 378,000 are children, with one in four under-fives suffering acute malnutrition.
Maria Tsolka, health specialist for Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit based in Cox's Bazar said:
"We are in the winter season here and overnight temperatures can fall as low as 10 degrees. While that is mild compared to winter temperatures in other regions of the world, the lack of warm clothing and flimsy shelter make the conditions difficult for people in the camps, especially children. Many of the children have weakened immune systems too and that makes them vulnerable to illnesses such as upper respiratory infections. We are concerned for children forced to sleep in flimsy bamboo structures covered in a thin layer of plastic sheeting.”
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NOTES TO EDITORS
DISTRIBUTIONS: Save the Children has so far distributed food to 86,665 households, reaching 433,491 beneficiaries of whom 240,984 are children. Shelter kits have been distributed to 26,833 households, reaching 134,165 beneficiaries of whom 75,132 are children. Hygiene kits have been distributed to 25,160 households, reaching 125,100 beneficiaries of whom 70,448 are children. Kitchen kits have been distributed to 27,492 households, reaching 137,460 beneficiaries of whom 76,978 are children
CHILD PROTECTION: More than 33,938 children have been supported through Save the Children’s protection activities; and 29,802 children have been supported through the agency’s Child Friendly Spaces. 1,734 children have also been supported through early childhood care and development.
HEALTH: Save the Children operates seven community health posts staffed by experienced doctors and nurses. They have supported more than 14,209 people including 6,632 children. We are in the process of opening two further health posts and are also screening for diphtheria and referring suspected cases.
EDUCATION: Nineteen temporary learning centres have been opened, supporting 2,950 children. We have also distributed student kits, teaching supplies and trained teachers in literacy, numeracy, and positive discipline in the classroom.
FUNDING: Save the Children must raise $95 million to help children and families that have fled to the camps in Bangladesh. To date, the agency has raised $38,647,691.
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