20 October 2017 – Issuing a dire warning on the desperate situation of Rohingya refugee children, who now number more than 320,000 in Bangladesh, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for an end to the atrocities targeting civilians in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and immediate and unfettered access to all children affected by the violence there.
At present, UNICEF has no access to Rohingya children in northern Rakhine state, where horrific violence since late August has driven over half a million members of the minority Muslim community to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh.
“Many Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh have witnessed atrocities in Myanmar no child should ever see, and all have suffered tremendous loss,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, releasing a new report Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future.
“This crisis is stealing their childhoods. We must not let it steal their futures at the same time.”
In the report, UNICEF has called for urgent action in four key areas:
- International support and funding for the Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Plan and humanitarian response plan for Myanmar;
- Protection of Rohingya children and families, and immediate unfettered humanitarian access to all children affected by the violence in Rakhine State;
- Support for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar; and
- A long-term solution to the crisis, including implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
The most pressing need for thousands of refugees and refugee children is food, safe water, sanitation and vaccinations. Psychosocial support, education and counselling is also urgently needed.
Meanwhile, the influx of refugees continues unabated – between 1,200 and 1,800 children are arriving per day (about 60 per cent the total number) and thousands more are said to be on way.
To cope with the crisis, UN relief agencies are working at full tilt, but funding and resources are in short supply.
Ahead of an international pledging conference on 23 October in Geneva, UNICEF has urged donors to respond promptly to the requirements of the updated Bangladesh Humanitarian Response Plan released jointly by the UN and humanitarian agencies.