A six-year old boy holds his one-year old brother as they stand outside the makeshift tent in Cox's Bazar district, Bangladesh where they live.

Six years-old Selim* holds his one-year old brother in his arms. The boy’s family fled Myanmar when their village was attacked and are now living in a makeshift camp in Cox's Bazar district, Bangladesh. 

Rohingya Crisis: Explained

LATEST UPDATE

In fragile places like refugee camps where people are already struggling to survive, the coronavirus pandemic could have a devastating impact. Save the Children is working with the Government of Bangladesh and Rohingya refugees to protect them from COVID-19. We are delivering critical supplies to health workers, restoring hygiene facilities, providing cash support to low-income households, and providing families with information on how to protect themselves from the virus.

But the fact remains, Rohingya children should not be living in these camps. They should not have to fight a global pandemic with the bare minimum needed to survive.

On 25 August 2017, following a series of attacks on Myanmar police and border guard posts by a loosely organized Rohingya armed group, the Myanmar security forces began a systematic campaign of violence against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State. In the months that followed, more than 730,000 Rohingya, over half of them children, were forced to flee the violence into neighboring Bangladesh. It was an exodus of a speed and scale the world had not witnessed since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Many children arrived alone in Bangladesh, severely traumatized, having seen their parents, relatives and friends killed right in front of them. Children were often targeted for brutal sexual violence and killed and maimed indiscriminately. So many of them suffer from severe mental health issues.

Today, nearly one million refugee children and adults living in refugee camps primarily in Bangladesh. The largest refugee camp lies in Cox’s Bazar District, where some 915,000 children and adults have taken refuge. Camps are overcrowded and unsanitary. Children and families depend largely on international agencies for food, water and basic services. They live in shelters of bamboo and plastic sheets, which leak in the rain and can be ruined by floods, wind or landslides during monsoon season. Girls and women are especially prone to exploitation and abuse.

While conditions for children and families have improved, without a clear resolution to the crisis, nearly 1 million Rohingya could remain in camps for years with no idea of what their future holds.

Timeline of a Crisis

1982: Myanmar passes a new citizenship law that denies Rohingya people. Nationality and leaves them stateless.

1992: More than 250,000 Rohingya people are forced out of northern Rakhine state, Myanmar, as a result of increased military operations in the area. They find refuge in Bangladesh.

2010: Save the Children begins to deliver on the ground support to children and families in Rakhine state.

2015: At least 33,000 Rohingya people flee Myanmar on dangerous and overcrowded boats to try to reach Malaysia and Thailand.

2016: Nine Myanmar policemen are killed by an armed group in a Rakhine border attack, launching against Rohingya people in the region. According to the UN, more than 1,000 Rohingya people are killed and more than 90,000 are displaced.

August 2017: After more policemen are killed, authorities launch clearance operations that triggers an exodus of Rohingya children, women and men. Over the next four days, the number of refugees reaching Bangladesh on foot and by boat soars to several thousand.

September 2017: Save the Children expand our work on the ground in Bangladesh to get immediate support to the new arrivals and by the end of the month we’re reaching 150,000 people with vital aid and food.

A one-month old baby born in a makeshift settlement for displaced Rohingya people in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh is comforted by his mother and grandmother.

Four week-old Ismil* was born in a makeshift settlement for displaced Rohingya people in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Questions

What is life in a refugee camp like for Rohingya children and families?
How is Save the Children responding to the Rohingya crisis?
What impact does the monsoon season have on Rohingya refugees?
What is Save the Children’s history of working in Bangladesh?
What is Save the Children’s history of working in Myanmar?
How can I help Rohingya refugees?

What is life in a refugee camp like for Rohingya children and families?
We all need healthcare – to treat illnesses and injuries, for births and operations. In a refugee camp, needs are even greater. Conditions are basic. Food is scarce and children are most at risk from malnutrition. Expectant and new mothers also need care to deliver and support their children.

When hundreds of thousands of people set up shelter on open land, disease is an almost immediate threat. Water is the first essential for survival. If there is no clean water on tap, families have no alternative but to draw supplies from rivers or pools. Diseases like cholera spread fast in the overcrowded conditions of a refugee camp and children are most at risk from waterborne and infectious diseases.

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How is Save the Children responding to the Rohingya crisis?
Save the Children launched a humanitarian response in 2017 to the influx of Rohingya to Bangladesh. Today, we are one of the leading international organizations in Cox’s Bazar.

We have over 2,100 staff and volunteers working in 27 camps and host communities.  Together, they are working to protect the rights of Rohingya children and families. Our teams serve the needs of the most vulnerable through the following:

  • Health Services - Our emergency health and nutrition programs, delivered through health posts and a 24/7, 20-bed inpatient care center, are accessible to Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis. We provide life-saving maternal, newborn and child health services. Our nutrition experts detect and treat malnutrition, teach new mothers about appropriate feeding practices for their babies and coach them on breastfeeding. We also set up safe water and sanitation systems that help protect people from lethal disease outbreaks.
  • Education in Emergencies - We ensure children have access to safe, protective and inclusive learning and development opportunities so that they can continue to learn. We have over 100 learning spaces, 10 girl-friendly spaces and 140 home-based learning spaces, which together serve some 13,800 girls and boys. We’ve integrated health and hygiene activities into education and trained teachers on how to support children’s mental health and psychosocial well-being.
  • Child Protection - Refugee camps are particularly dangerous for children. Our safe spaces, differentiated by age and gender, enable children and youth to learn, play and enjoy a respite. We also rely on community case managers, who work with vulnerable children and families on a daily basis; they also work with community leaders to help create and support child protection committees.
  • Mental Health - Many children and adults experienced or witnessed horrifying atrocities. We support mental health and psychosocial support across our programming, such as through our health centers, safe spaces and learning centers. We help children enhance their social and cognitive skills and cope with the emotional trauma they have experienced; we reach new mothers and parents through peer groups.
  • Safe Shelter and Infrastructure - We provide the material and expertise to help keep thousands of families protected from the weather and living in strong, safe shelters, which is especially critical during monsoon season.

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What impact does the monsoon season have on Rohingya refugees?
Bangladesh is prone to natural disasters and gets some of the most intense monsoon rains on earth. Severe weather conditions strike further cruel blows to refugees, as the Cox’s Bazar District fronts on the Bay of Bengal. The threats that floods, landslides and high winds pose to refugees can only be described as a “disaster within a disaster.”

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What is Save the Children’s history of working in Bangladesh?
Save the Children has sustained a presence in Bangladesh for nearly 50 years, since 1970. Since 2012, we have addressed education, protection and water/sanitation needs of refugee Rohingya children from Myanmar. We are now working around the clock to alleviate the urgent needs created by the massive exodus of Rohingya children and adults who have fled atrocities and horrors in Myanmar since late August of 2017.

Save the Children is committed to conducting humanitarian relief for as long as Rohingya remain in Bangladesh and require aid.

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What is Save the Children’s history of working in Myanmar?
Save the Children has worked in Myanmar since 1995. Our staff are experienced in humanitarian relief after disasters and for those displaced by conflict and are prepared to deploy flood relief if needed. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, our teams have helped over 350,000 children since the start of the crisis.

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How can I help Rohingya refugees?
Your donation to the Rohingya Crisis Children’s Relief Fund will help provide as many children and families as possible with life-saving water, food and shelter. Through your generosity, we also care for children coping with tragedy and reunite lost children with their families.

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