Nearly 40 Percent of Rohingya Children in Cox’s Bazar are Stunted: New Study

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (June 12, 2018) – Humanitarian agencies supporting Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh are making progress in improving children's health—but the situation remains critical, a new assessment by nutrition experts, including Save the Children, reveals.

The study, which compares health data in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar from October 2017 to May 2018, reveals that while stunting rates have dropped from 44 percent to 38 percent in the main camp, this is still near the World Health Organization’s (WHO) critical health emergency threshold of 40 percent. 

Meanwhile, acute malnutrition rates have dropped from 19 percent to 12 percent in the main camp, rates of anemia have dropped by one third (from 48 percent to 32 percent), and there has been a sharp reduction in the number of child deaths and rates of diarrhea.

Save the Children nutrition expert Caroline Chiedo warned that despite the improvement, the health situation for Rohingya refugee children remains dire.

“While it’s promising to see a reduction in the number of children suffering from malnutrition and stunting, we’re still at or very close to the emergency thresholds set out by the World Health Organization,” Chiedo said.

“Stunting—which is caused by poor nutrition, repeated infection, and a lack of psychosocial stimulation in the first years of a child's life—is linked to terrible long-term outcomes for children, including impaired intellectual development. The situation is still on a knife edge, particularly as we’re at the start of the monsoon season, bringing a heightened risk of an outbreak of disease.”

This news comes on the back of three days of intense rains and powerful winds in Cox’s Bazar, which have caused over 3,500 landslides, and left over 2,000 shelters damaged or destroyed. Tragically, a three-year-old Rohingya refugee boy lost his life in a landslide on Monday.

“Over the past three days, the situation in the camps has gone from bad to worse,” said Daphnee Cook, Save the Children’s Communications and Media Manager in Cox’s Bazar.

“Whole tracts of camps have been inundated with water, with hundreds of people being forced to move to temporary shelters. Roads have been cut off, with response teams forced to walk through the mud to continue providing critical services, like running nutrition centers. It’s shocking to see how quickly the situation has deteriorated.” 

“Along with landslides and floods, children are particularly vulnerable to diseases like serious respiratory infections and diarrhea. Malnourished children are much more likely to die if they contract diarrhea, sometimes within days. Knowing that the nutrition situation for Rohingya refugee children, while seeing some improvements, is still at a critical stage, underlines the need for support to children to be ramped up,” Cook added.

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Spokespeople in Cox’s Bazaar are available for additional comment. Please contact Erin Taylor (etaylor@savechildren.org) to arrange an interview. 

Notes to editors
Since the outbreak of violence in August 2017 that led to over 700,000 Rohingya refugees, including 370,000 children, arriving in Bangladesh, Save the Children has dramatically scaled up its operations. The aid agency has now reached more than 611,000 newly arrived Rohingya, including through distributions of food, hygiene, shelter and household items, by setting up ten emergency health posts, and running nearly 100 centers that support children’s wellbeing and learning in their mother tongue, Rohingya.

We are also running health centers, which provide treatment for severe and moderate acute malnutrition cases for children under 5 years old—including ready-to use therapeutic food, which is high energy, fortified food, suitable for the treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition.

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