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Since August 25, in just three months, more than 620,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar in search of safety in neighboring Bangladesh.
Six out of ten of these refugees are children. They live in camps in Bangladesh’s southernmost district, Cox’s Bazar, and most of them have only survived because of the services of humanitarian organizations authorized to operate in the region. The pace and scale of this movement have prompted the United Nations to call this the “world’s fastest growing refugee crisis” that shows little signs of abating. In a two-day period last week, 2,800 people crossed the border into Bangladesh.
Most refugees fled with only the clothes they were wearing. Thousands suffer from hunger, and many children have not been vaccinated for measles or cholera. They are now dependent on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs. The living conditions in the camps in the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh, where most of the refugees have arrived, are particularly difficult. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of access to safe water, and heavy rains have escalated risks of outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
Action Against Hunger’s assessment in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar found that 7.5 percent of children are suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition. An estimated 40,000 of those children are at risk of death.
Most of the Rohingya refugees are children: they comprise between 55 and 58 percent of the total refugee population. Children in the camps face a high risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation, trafficking, and discrimination, as well as major threats to their health.
The conditions for children and adolescents are deplorable. Many refugees have no choice but to create makeshift shelters on the roads or sleep outside in the open air, near camps, roads, and forests. The massive influx of refugees in just 100 days has been overwhelming to the humanitarian community in Cox’s Bazar. People are extremely vulnerable, traumatized, and in urgent need of immediate assistance to meet their daily survival needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation, and emergency health care.
Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Bangladesh, Nipin Gangadharan, reports on the humanitarian situation three months after the onset of conflict.