How UNICEF Is Helping Rohingya Children Fleeing Violence

19/09/2017 14:53 BST | Updated 19/09/2017 14:54 BST
Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

It's hard to imagine how things have gotten so much worse for the Rohingya children in Cox's Bazar over the last few months. When I was there this summer, I met children who had fled Myanmar with their families and were living in temporary shelters in Southern Bangladesh - in an already poor community under fragile, tarpaulin tents.


Rohingya family who have crossed border into Bangladesh Brown/UNICEF

My overriding impression was of the pre-existing poverty of the communities into which they were arriving, and the flimsy settlements and dwellings the families had erected. UNICEF had quickly established child friendly spaces, where children can learn, play and receive protection. So many children were also showing very visible signs of malnourishment and were being treated with nutritional supplements and support.

In the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children have arrived in Bangladesh: many having walked for days, traumatised and alone. This catastrophic growth in the scale of the problem is shocking to see and has stretched aid agencies to breaking point. The consequences for children, who have endured long dangerous journeys is visible in their exhausted and frightened faces. The rapidly created encampments provide little shelter from the elements and conditions for the spread of disease are rife.

They give harrowing testimonies of the horrors they experienced and witnessed - stories of abuse and violence no child should be faced with.

In the midst of this disaster, I remember the people I spoke with, like Abdullah and Azima, their relief at having made the journey and having a place of relative safety for their children, mixed with the uncertainty and fear of having left their homes and in some cases lost loved ones. These camps are severely overcrowded and new settlements are emerging with no access to clean water or sanitation - combining this with the monsoon rains and flooding could produce a very serious threat of water borne diseases.

As always, children are so vulnerable in emergencies like this and the needs are immense. Children who are now alone because their parents have been killed or because they have been separated on the journey, are at risk of falling into the hands of those who want to exploit them. We've registered more than one thousand children who are currently unaccompanied and are working to reunite them with family, and make sure their needs are being met and rights are being protected in the meantime.

Everyone must come together in the face of this unfolding disaster. UNICEF is on the ground working tirelessly to provide safe drinking water, food and shelter, as well as give children the emotional support they so desperately need.

Please click here to support UNICEF's emergency appeal to help Rohingya children fleeing violence.