Children and adults living in Cox's Bazar are some of the most at-risk.

 Overcrowded conditions and limited access to healthcare will make managing the spread of COVID-19 extremely challenging. With a potential 500,000 cases projected over the next 12 months, your urgent support is desperately needed in our race against time. 

Help Save Rohingya Refugee Children

In August 2017 over 700,000 people — half of them children — fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape terrifying violence. It was an exodus on a scale not seen 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 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 of bamboo and plastic sheets, which leak in the rain and can be ruined by floods, wind or landslides during monsoon season The cramped conditions are rife for the spread of disease. Girls and women are especially prone to exploitation and abuse.

With your help, Save the Children has been providing essential services to nearly 600,000 refugees and the local community since 2017. Your continued support is so vital now and more than ever before. 

Timeline: The Rohingya Refugee Crisis Explained

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, with a capacity of up to 60 beds.

The Impact of COVID-19 in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

To meet the urgent health needs of the community, Save the Children will opened a new isolation and treatment center in July 2020. Nearly 45% of the refugee population aren’t getting enough daily nutrition which puts children at higher risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19.

A frontline health worker sits with medical supplies for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 in Save the Children's new isolation unit in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Save the Children has nearly 100 frontline healthcare workers providing services to the Rohingya refugee and host communities in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. It is opening a open new isolation and treatment center to help treat the sick as COVID cases continue to rise.

Once COVID-19 entered the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, the prospect that thousands of people could die from COVID-19 became reality. One in ten households in the camps have at least one individual above the age of five with a chronic illness or disability, increasing the risk exponentially. It’s estimated there could be more than 500,000 cases over the next 12 months.

Prevention is critical in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. But conditions in overcrowded refugee camps make social distancing an impossible choice.

Save the Children is rapidly adapting and re-purposing resources to prevent, prepare for and reduce the spread of COVID-19. We already deliver a large and respected health programme in Cox’s Bazar through nine health facilities, including a 24/7 inpatient facility. 

For thousands of refugees and host community members, we are their health service. 

To meet the urgent health needs of the community, Save the Children has opened a new isolation and treatment center. The center provides higher level care for confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients from both the Rohingya refugee community and the local community in Cox’s Bazar.

The center will be staffed by an expert team of 80 health professionals and support staff, including Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit, who have extensive experience in managing disease outbreaks. 

What's Life Like for Rohingya Refugee Children?

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 traumatised, having seen their parents, relatives and friends killed right in front of them. Now, three years on, they 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," said Athena Rayburn, Save the Children’s Rohingya Response Advocacy Manager. "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."

Since 2017, Save the Children has been providing essential services to nearly 600,000 refugees and the local community in Cox's Bazar.. As the coronavirus continues to impact children, families and communities, our teams are working around the clock to deliver vital health services.

As the global leader in child-focused humanitarian response, we work in the hardest-to-reach places, where it's toughest to be a child. But we can’t do it without your support. Please donate today. 

How to Help Rohingya Refugee Children

Please help us save lives, and futures, with a donation to our Rohingya Refugee Crisis Children's Fund.


We’ll be in touch! By signing up to receive emails from Save the Children you will receive a subscription to our monthly eNews, access to breaking emergency alerts and opportunities to get involved. To ensure delivery of Save the Children emails to your inbox, add support@savechildren.org to your contact list.