Help Save Rohingya Refugee Children
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 struggle with severe mental health issues.
Three years on, amid a global pandemic, nearly one million people remain stranded in Cox's Bazar, the largest refugee camp in the world. They live in shelters made of highly flammable bamboo and tarpaulin. The recent deadly blaze that left 50,000 people in the camp homeless was a stark reminder that conditions are rife not only for the spread of disease but rapid-moving fire.
With your help, Save the Children has been providing essential services to nearly 600,000 Rohingya refugees and the local community since 2017. In July 2020, we opened a new isolation and treatment center to help prevent, prepare for and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Your continued support is so vital now and more than ever before.
Rohingya Crisis Timeline
1982 - 2010
In 1982, Myanmar passes a new citizenship law that denies Rohingya people nationality and leaves them stateless.
Ten years later, 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.
With a sustained presense in Bangladesh since 1970, Save the Children begins to deliver on the ground support to children and families in Rakhine state.
2015 - 2016
At least 33,000 Rohingya people flee Myanmar on dangerous and overcrowded boats to try to reach Malaysia and Thailand.
In 2016, nine Myanmar policemen are killed by an armed group in a Rakhine border attack. A military crackdown follows. According to the UN, more than 1,000 Rohingya people are killed. Nearly 90,000 are displaced.
In August 2017, after more policemen are killed, authorities launch clearance operations that trigger 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.
In September, Save the Children expands our work on the ground in Bangladesh to get immediate support to the new arrivals. By the end of the month we’ve reached 150,000 people with vital aid and food.
By December, over 700,000 Rohingya refugees including at least 370,000 children have arrived at what has become the largest refugee settlement in the world.
Over 700,000 Rohingya refugees including at least 370,000 children have now arrived at what has become the largest refugee settlement in the world.
With more than half the population of the camps children under 18, we establish hundreds of temporary learning centres, and distribute backpacks full of learning materials. We also begin to prepare for the monsoon.
By the end of May, we’re running more than 90 child-friendly spaces. We’re also distributing child identity bracelets, just in case children become separated.
Our new 20-bed primary health care centre opens to families.
Rohingya families continue to be driven to take desperate measures they think will give their children the best possible future. In April, Bangladesh’s coast guard rescues a boat with hundreds of Rohingya people that had been drifting at sea for two months.
By May, the first case of coronavirus is reported in the refugee camps. With only an estimated 2,000 ventilators in all of Bangladesh, serving a population of 160 million people, healthcare capacity across the country is overwhelmed.
To meet the urgent health needs of the community, Save the Children opens a new isolation and treatment center. The center is staffed by an expert team of 80 health professionals, including Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit, who have extensive experience in managing disease outbreaks.
A huge fire sweeps through Cox's Bazar.
The flames killed an estimated 11 people, including children, and left 50,000 people homeless. Hundreds of people are still reported missing in the weeks following the blaze. Save the Children’s family tracing and reunification team works to locate missing children, reuniting 289 children with their families after they were separated in the chaos.
The fire also destroyed 163 learning spaces, putting education out of reach for 13,226 Rohingya children. Save the Children estimates that it will take more than three months to rebuild these facilities, pushing Rohingya children further behind when their peers in other parts of Bangladesh go back to school in May following COVID-19-related closures.
Rohingya Crisis: Questions
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Through the support of our donors, Save the Children has been providing essential services to around 600,000 refugees and the local community since 2017.
Over the last three years, donor support has created enough learning spaces to serve 13,800 children. Together, we've built safe spaces to enable children to learn and play. We’ve integrated health and hygiene activities into education and trained teachers on how to support children’s mental health and psychological well-being.
We've ensured nearly 470,000 refugees here, including almost 280,000 children, get staple food like rice, lentils and cooking oil on a regular basis.
Most recently our donors have helped to build a major COVID-19 treatment centre — allowing children and their families to get the care they need at this crucial time.
In 1982, Myanmar passed a citizenship law that denied Rohingya people nationality and left them stateless. Over the years, the Rohingya people experienced continuous violence and persecution and were denied rights granted to Myanmar citizens.
On August 25, 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.
Almost 300,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh over the next two weeks as disturbing reports surfaced of hundreds of people, including children, being killed. In just a short amount of time, over 700,000 people — half of them children — had fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
In and around Cox’s Bazar, a Bangladeshi district near the Myanmar border, thousands of Rohingya families including children were forced to sleep out in the open or by a roadside because they didn't have anywhere else to go. Lacking enough food or clean drinking water, the risk of children being exploited, abused or even trafficked was of grave concern.
The scale of the influx of Rohingya arriving in Cox’s Bazar was unprecedented and put huge stress on host communities and humanitarian agencies. Today, three years on and amid a global pandemic, nearly one million people remain stranded in the largest refugee camp in the world.
The mass displacement of Rohingya people followed an alarming escalation of violence in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar.
Bangladesh’s southern district of Cox’s Bazar, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled, is now home to the largest refugee camp in the world.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who reside in Myanmar.
Faced with decades of systematic discrimination and targeted violence in Rakhine State, the Rohingya fled in a mass exodus on August 25, 2017.
"The process of returning Rohingya refugees cannot begin until it is guaranteed that they will be safe in Myanmar’s Rakhine State with a clear process in place to ensure justice and accountability for the serious human rights abuses they have suffered" ; Save the Children warned at the onset of the crisis.
For more information on refugees, read our page What is a refugee?.
Since 2017, more than one million Rohingya refugees, half of whom are children, have lived in cramped camps after being violently forced from their homes across the border in Myanmar to escape unimaginable violence.
Over 450,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children.
Three years on from the beginning of this crisis, hundreds of thousands of children remain stranded on the steep hillsides of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
While safe from the brutal violence that forced them to leave Myanmar, the camps in Bangladesh are no place for a child.
Access to education and other essential services is limited, and children are at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. To make matters worse, the camps are now facing the prospect of a COVID-19 outbreak, with potentially devastating consequences.
“Put simply, despite the relentless efforts of humanitarian communities, a refugee camp is no place for a child to grow up," said Save the Children's Country Director in Bangladesh Onno van Manen.
Rohingya children have witnessed and suffered from some of the worst human rights abuses of the 21st century. They have faced a ruthless campaign of military violence that has been systematic, targeted and deliberate.
Many children arrived alone in Bangladesh, severely traumatized, having seen their parents, relatives and friends killed right in front of them. Now, three years on, Rohingya refugees are still living in makeshift settlements in one of the most densely populated places in the world.
These are some of the shocking realities for Rohingya refugee children:
- Over 450,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children.
- An estimated 75% of babies are born in the unsafe and unsanitary bamboo shelters.
- Almost 1/3 children under five have had their growth stunted by lack of food.
- Only 13% of boys and 2% of girls aged 15-18 are in school.
- 40% of children are scared of dying or losing a family member to COVID-19
Rohingya children are some of the most marginalized on the planet. "Children stuck in the camps in Cox’s Bazar face a bleak future with little freedom of movement, inadequate access to education, poverty, serious protection risks and abuse including child marriage," said Onno van Manen."
As the coronavirus continues to impact children, families and communities, our teams are working around the clock to deliver vital health services. Our new isolation and treatment centre has 60 beds to care for COVID-19 patients. The centre is open 24/7 and staffed by 80 health and support workers, including our highly experienced Emergency Health Unit.
Our community volunteers are providing information to families about how they can protect themselves from the virus.
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.
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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