Just over a year ago, in August 2017, crisis struck in a part of Myanmar called the Rakhine state, of where the Rohingya people reside. Approximately 700,000 people escaped and crossed the border to Bangladesh to flee from the Myanmar Army. The Army began undergoing a crackdown on what the United Nations have described as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
The number of refugees residing in Bangladesh is now said to exceed a million- many of which are located in what is called the ‘Mega Camp’ in Kutupalong- Balukhali which has a population of 600,000. Currently the residents are living in extremely tough conditions. For example, a walk of up to 8 kilometres must be made every day to retrieve firewood, many of the refugees are at risk of extreme flooding in monsoon season but are said to be very unprepared. Children have no access to education, though they are said to make up about 55% of the refugee population.
It is obvious to see why these people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Many of the Rohingya people have escaped with stories of extreme violence, rape and persecution. And although it is in another way, their safety and well-being is still very much at risk.
In an article by UNICEF, the following story was told:
“I’d rather die in Bangladesh than be forced to return to Myanmar,” says Aisha, 19, who was raped by soldiers during an attack on her village in Myanmar. Soldiers killed her oldest child, a seven-year-old boy, as the family was trying to flee the violence. “They threw my son in the air and cut him with a machete. Then they threw petrol bombs and burned down our houses.”
This puts into perspective how dangerous and life- threatening the conditions were for the Rohingya people. Their decision to escape is not a questionable one.
Currently there are plans to move the people living in camps to an island called Bhasan Char and for housing and infrastructure to be built however this plan has heavily been criticized by human rights groups who state that the island is too dangerous to build on due to high waves and tides and extreme weather events.
Children are obviously extremely vulnerable in this situation. Being denied access to education compromises what has been stated as one of the rights of children. It has also been found a huge percentage of families in these camps are still children. As previously mentioned in the story above, the 19 year old girl already had a 7 year old son. Young parenthood is not rare in the case. But these parents are still children and young adults who need help and support they unfortunately are not getting.
The entire situation is both heartbreaking and catastrophic and returning to a safe home is something that is not looking like a possibility for the Rohingya people anytime soon as long as the government refuses to acknowledge the fault in their actions. It is very possible many people will never know life outside the refugee camps again. UNICEF is working and striving to provide as much assistance as possible.
Al Jazeera. 2018. One year on: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh | Bangladesh | Al Jazeera. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/year-rohingya-refugees-bangladesh-180823074512290.html.
UNICEF. 2018. Rohingya crisis | Bangladesh | UNICEF. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/bangladesh_100945.html.