GENEVA/ NEW YORK/ SYDNEY 23 February 2018
– In the crowded and largely lawless world of the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, children face a daily threat of violence, UNICEF said today.
12 year old Nurbahar and her friend 11 year old Sabiha are in charge of collecting firewood for their families. “I don’t like to go to the jungle,” says Sabiha. “But we cannot cook without taking firewood. The villagers can take our wood and beat us, so we are afraid of them and we never go alone.”
But as poverty bites deeper in the chaotic camps, children are being increasingly pushed to contribute to the family income.
UNICEF Child Protection specialists say girls are also dropping out of school, which may indicate a fear on the part of parents that their daughters are not safe wandering the camps alone.
In a report* marking six months since the start of the latest exodus of Rohingya refugees into southern Bangladesh, UNICEF says the situation facing girls and boys is dire.
“Some 720,000 Rohingya children are essentially trapped – either hemmed in by violence and forced displacement inside Myanmar, or stranded in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh because they can’t return home,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programs.
“This is a crisis without a quick fix that could take years to resolve unless there is a concerted effort to address its root causes.”
According to the report, an estimated 185,000 Rohingya children remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, fearful of the violence and horror that drove so many of their relatives and neighbours to flee.
In Bangladesh, there are estimated to be around 534,000 Rohingya refugee children from last year’s and previous influxes. Soon floods, caused by the fast approaching cyclone season, are likely to engulf the fragile and unsanitary camps where the most of the refugees are living, raising the likelihood of waterborne disease outbreaks - and forcing clinics, learning centres and other facilities for children to close.
Chased from their homes and communities, the Rohingya are a people cast adrift, trapped in limbo and deprived of their basic rights, while facing fresh threats to their health and lives, the report states.
UNICEF calls on the Myanmar Government to end the violence, and to address what it terms a crisis of human rights in Rakhine State. This refers to restrictions on Rohingya people’s freedom of movement, extremely limited access to health care, education and livelihoods, and consequent dependence on humanitarian support.
The report says that the recognition of the Rohingya people’s basic rights would create conditions necessary for the refugees to return to their former homes in Myanmar.
Since August 2017, a lack of access to many parts of Rakhine State has severely restricted the work of UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies. UNICEF says that immediate and unimpeded access to all children in the state is imperative, as well as longer-term efforts to address intercommunal tension and promote social cohesion.
In Bangladesh, aid efforts led and overseen by the Government have averted disaster, while 79,000 Rohingya have been accommodated by local communities. UNICEF has been part of a huge international response, supporting the digging of water borewells, the installation of thousands of latrines and immunisation campaigns to protect children against cholera, measles and other diseases.
*Our report LIVES IN LIMBO: No End in Sight to the threats facing Rohingya children can be downloaded at this link
For more, please contact:
Simon Ingram, UNICEF Brussels, [email protected]
, +32 491 90 5118
Christopher Tidey, UNICEF New York, [email protected]
, +1 917 340 3017
Charlotte Glennie, UNICEF Australia, [email protected]
, +61 420 407 886