Two months after an outbreak of violence began in Rakhine State, Myanmar, an estimated 604,000 Rohingya refugees have now fled across the border in search of safety in Bangladesh.
Action Against Hunger warns that camps in the region of Cox's Bazar, where many refugees are arriving, have become overpopulated. The living conditions in the camps are appalling, posing significant risks to the health of the most vulnerable people. More than half of the refugees (54 percent) are children.
“Such rapid and massive displacement of people is very disturbing. The levels of suffering we have seen are enormous,” said Isabelle Moussard-Carlsen, Director of Operations for Action Against Hunger.
Children are at risk
Among the 604,000 refugees displaced by the recent outbreak of violence in Myanmar, an estimated 320,000 are children under the age of 18. Some arrive alone; many have experienced trauma.
In the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, there is a high prevalence of severe acute malnutrition among children under five. Over the past two months, Action Against Hunger has screened more than 175,000 children under the age of five for malnutrition, and has admitted 22,000 malnourished children into its nutrition programs for treatment.
Outside formal refugee camps, newly arriving refugees have little access to water and sanitation facilities, and there is an elevated risk of waterborne diseases.
Ending the suffering
On October 23, a high-level conference was convened in Geneva, urging the international community to pledge 434 million dollars by February 2018 to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees. Action Against Hunger attended the conference, emphasizing the critical need to mobilize resources to fund the humanitarian response, but also calling for political commitment to end the crisis.
“While we are meeting the survival needs of traumatized, vulnerable women, children, and men, we must also think ahead to helping them rebuild their lives. Creating or perpetuating ‘mega-camps’ is not a solution for the short term or the medium term,” said Moussard-Carlsen.
Long-terms solutions must be defined, so that Rohingya refugees have the opportunity to recover, become self sufficient, and contribute to the economic and social development of the communities in which they live.