As a stateless Muslim minority group, Rohingya people have faced discrimination, violence and extreme poverty for decades. In 2017, a surge of violence began that would force more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees to leave Myanmar and cross the border into Bangladesh.
They fled mass killings and forced starvation. Homes and villages were burned. There were reports of babies thrown on fires and young girls raped.
Today, Rohingya children and families have lost their homes, embarked on dangeours journeys by boat and foot in search of safety and are struggling to survive in overcrowded makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. They’re haunted by the extreme violence they’ve witnessed and at risk from outbreaks of deadly diseases.
Children like Sabekunnahar are not responsible for this crisis but they are caught in the middle. Behind her smile is a story few of us could imagine. “I did my makeup myself with a mirror and a stick to make the dots,” she says. “My mother was murdered in Myanmar. When I put on makeup it makes me forget about my problems for a little while.”
Rohingya refugee crisis - key facts and information
- Who are the Rohingya people? The Rohingya are an ethnic group, mostly Muslim, who have lived in western Myanmar for centuries.
- Why are they being persecuted? The Rohingya people are stateless, unrecognised as citizens by the Myanmar Government, which means that they face discrimination, violence and extreme poverty.
- Why were Rohingya families in the news? After a period of extreme violence in 2017, around 650,000 Rohingya, 60% of them children, walked more than 60 kilometres to reach safety in Bangladesh. Many children walked for days and arrived in refugee camps sick, exhausted and in desperate need of clean water, food and shelter.
- Who’s helping Rohingya refugees? UNICEF is on the ground working with the government of Bangladesh and partners to prevent and treat disease, protect children from danger and exploitation, and provide a safe space to learn and play. Thanks to the regular support of donors like UNICEF Global Parents, we’ve averted a huge loss of life. But there’s so much left to do to keep children and families safe.
- Are there any Rohingya families left in Myanmar? It’s estimated that half a million Rohingya people remain in Myanmar, many in terribly deprived camps and villages where they’re not free to move or access life-saving health care. UNICEF is calling for unimpeded access to all these children so we can identify children in need and deliver life-saving care.
We’re helping Rohingya children every day
- We're providing safe drinking water and toilets to stop the spread of disease in crowded camps.
- We're screening children for malnutrition and acting fast to treat them with life-saving therapeutic food.
- We're running 41 child-friendly spaces where more than 5,000 children can rest, play and get psychosocial care to recover from profound stress.
With 70 years of experience keeping children safe through disaster and conflict, UNICEF knows exactly how to keep Rohingya children safe.
In 2018 alone, we need to vaccinate over a million people to stop a deadly outbreak of cholera sweeping through the refugee camps. Our psychosocial teams need to give more than 350,000 children who’ve witnessed some of the worst atrocities in modern history the care they need to recover. And every single day, UNICEF needs to deliver the equivalent of 10 Olympic swimming pools litres of water so Rohingya children and families can survive.
We fund this life-saving work for children with voluntary donations from everyday people just like you. From right here in Australia, they give the emergency donations
or monthly support
UNICEF needs to meet Rohingya children’s urgent needs and make a lasting difference in their lives. Please help reach the children who need us most with a donation to UNICEF.