Dhaka, Oct 20 – Violence in Myanmar is driving up to 12,000 Rohingya children into Bangladesh every week putting them into danger of cholera and malnutrition, according to a new global report.Well over half a million Rohingya people have crossed into Cox’s Bazar since late August after escaping horrific violence in Myanmar. They have joined some 200,000 others who came in earlier Rohingya influxes.
Almost 60 percent of the latest arrivals are children, crossing at a rate of between 1,200 and 1,800 per day, according to the Unicef report
In the newly released report – Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future – the UN body said most of the refugees are living in overcrowded and unsanitary makeshift settlements.
The report said a long-term solution to the crisis in Rakhine State is also needed and the issues of statelessness and discrimination must be addressed as recommended by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
Unicef in the report called for urgent action in four key areas – international support and funding for the Bangladesh humanitarian response plan and humanitarian response plan for Myanmar, protection of Rohingya children and families, and immediate unfettered humanitarian access to all children affected by the violence in Rakhine State, support for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar; and a long-term solution to the crisis, including implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
Despite an expanding international aid effort, led by the Bangladesh government, the essential needs of many children are not being met.
Desperate living conditions and waterborne diseases are threatening over 320,000 Rohingya children who have fled to southern Bangladesh since late August, including some 10,000 who crossed from Myanmar over the past few days, Unicef said.
“Many Rohingya children in Bangladesh have witnessed atrocities in Myanmar no child should ever see, and all have suffered tremendous loss,” said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake.
These children urgently need food, safe water, sanitation, and vaccinations to protect them from diseases that thrive in emergencies.
“But they also need help in overcoming all they have endured. They need education. They need counselling. They need hope. If we don’t provide them with these things now, how will they ever grow up to be productive citizens of their societies? This crisis is stealing their childhoods. We must not let it steal their futures at the same time,” Lake said.
Unicef Bangladesh Representative, Edouard Beigbeder, said Rohingyas are still coming, but already they can see the appalling dangers that the children are facing. “Living in the open, with food, safe water and sanitation in desperately short supply, the risk of waterborne and other diseases is palpable,” he said.
High levels of severe acute malnutrition among young children have been found in the camps, and antenatal services to mothers and babies are lacking. Support for children traumatised by violence also needs to be expanded.
The report also said in the chaotic setting of the camps, children and youth could fall prey to traffickers and others looking to exploit and manipulate them.
Unicef has called for an end to the atrocities targeting civilians in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and for humanitarian actors to be given immediate and unfettered access to all children affected by the violence there. At present, it has no access to Rohingya children in Rakhine.
Ahead of an international pledging conference on October 23 in Geneva, the UN body urged donors to respond urgently to the requirements of the updated Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) released by the UN and humanitarian agencies.
It called for $434 million, which includes US$76.1 million to address the immediate needs of newly-arrived Rohingya children, as well as those who arrived before the recent influx, and children from vulnerable host communities.
Expanding the provision of safe water, sanitation and improved hygiene for Rohingya children is the top priority of the appeal, amid concerns over a possible outbreak of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases.
Most Rohingya children are not fully immunised against diseases such as measles.
Unicef is also focused on providing Rohingya children with learning and support services in child-friendly spaces, and working with its partners to address gender-based violence.
Rohingya children are among some 50 million children who have been uprooted from their homes due to conflict, poverty and extreme weather.
Last year, Unicef launched the global campaign #Children Uprooted to highlight the plight of these highly vulnerable children. – UNB