Nearly 58% Rohingya Refugees Are Kids at Risk: UNICEF Report

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya children faced when they were attacked in Myanmar.

2 min read
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. <i>(Photo: AP)</i>

Nearly 58 percent of around 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report, released on Friday, 20 October, stated.

The UNICEF report titled ‘Outcast & desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future’, which was released at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, said that these children were highly-exposed to infectious diseases.

In a sense, it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth.
Simon Ingram, author, ‘Outcast & desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future’

After two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, a southern Bangladesh town where nearly 600,000 newly-arrived refugees are crammed into a crowd of 200,000 Rohingyas who had fled earlier, Ingram described the situation fraught with “despair, misery and indescribable suffering.”

The report focusses on the dangers these Rohingya children faced when they were attacked in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

Several drawings of children with uniformed soldiers killing people and helicopters spraying bullets from the sky were also highlighted in the report.

In August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out a coordinated attack on security posts in Myanmar, sparking a violent response from the military which led to thousands of Rohingyas in Rakhine state fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Ingram explained that very little is known about what is happening in Rakhine, since humanitarian agencies have not been able to enter the region since August.

Most of the refugees are already undernourished, since the repression also included the burning of food stores and the destruction of crops. 

Ingram explained that the main danger of infectious diseases have been mitigated with the vaccination campaign against cholera, measles, and polio, but much remains to be done to tackle these risks.

He added that the situation worsened with the lack of clean drinking water, as these children consumed only contaminated water.

With regards to child protection, he welcomed the fact that the number of unaccompanied children had decreased to 800, with the identification task carried out by the various humanitarian agencies on the ground.

Regarding sexual abuse or forced marriages, Ingram said that for now they only have punctual evidence, but that it is a real risk in any situation such as that in Cox's Bazar. What does occur relatively frequently, he said, is child labour.

In the area of protection, the essential issue is the status of these people. Not only do they have to be recognised as refugees but also that newborns in the countryside or along the way should be able to obtain some kind of birth certificate.

UNICEF and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are negotiating with the Bangladeshi authorities the possibility of issuing birth certificates for newborn Rohingyas, but talks are still in progress.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority that Myanmar does not recognise as citizens, and are therefore stateless.

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