International children’s charity SOS Children’s Villages UK has urged the Government to exert influence over its commonwealth partner Bangladesh, and the Myanmar state, to ensure at-risk Rohingya children are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation. The call comes as a powerful exhibition is launched in London to highlight the plight of Rohingya children and families at the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement.
‘The Rohingya Crisis: A People in Exile’ exhibition – created in partnership with world class photographer and storyteller Renaud Philippe – explores the lives and experiences of Rohingya refugees at the settlement and the violence they experienced at the hands of the Myanmar military.
Speaking at the launch will be Rushanara Ali MP, Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rights of the Rohingya, multi award-winning BBC World Affairs correspondent Mike Thompson, photographer Renaud Philippe, and SOS Children’s Villages UK CEO Alison Wallace.
SOS Children’s Villages UK CEO Alison Wallace said: “500,000 children, and their families, are living in dire conditions at the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh. Through this exhibition we hope to shed a light on this ongoing crisis and put pressure the Government to do more to fulfil their responsibilities towards the world’s most at-risk children.
“Continued political wrangling over the future of the Rohingya community has left these children with an uncertain future – without citizenship rights, access to education or basic services to ensure their health and development. Traumatised by the atrocities they witnessed and under threat from natural disasters and human predators, Rohingya children are in urgent need of improved support and protection.”
SOS Children’s Villages UK is calling on the UK Government to:
- Exert influence to ensure the rights of Rohingya and Bangladeshi children are fully respected, and they are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation
- Increase efforts to ensure Rohingya children have access to safe, quality and inclusive learning opportunities
- Ensure access to targeted mental health support for Rohingya children
- Continue to seek a long-lasting solution to the crisis that allows for the safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees
More than 1 million people from the Rohingya community were forced to flee their Myanmar homeland in August 2017 when the military’s ‘clearance operations’ resulted in the murder of 6,700 people – including 730 children below the age of five. The UN has termed the violence ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ and called for military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity.
Rushanara Ali MP said: “I visited Cox’s Bazar earlier this year, and saw first-hand the difficult conditions the Rohingya refugees live in. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced into an area of only five square miles, living in cramped, crowded and unhygienic conditions. During my visit, I was told horrific stories of families being separated, loved ones being killed, and of children dying for lack of access to healthcare. No child should have to endure this.
“That is why the work of SOS Children’s Villages UK is so important. They provide vital services, such as education and healthcare to support children and families in Cox’s Bazar.
“Whilst the admirable work of charities help improve the living conditions and wellbeing of the Rohingya people, their work is a drop in the ocean without more humanitarian assistance and robust action from the international community to provide justice and accountability for the Rohingya. The global community must ensure that the Myanmar military are held to account for their atrocious actions.”
More than half the refugees at the Cox’s Bazar settlement are children. There are no schools, few basic services and only one hospital to provide care for nearly 1.3 million vulnerable people. Children are living in temporary bamboo huts which provide insufficient protection against the regions’ extreme weather, which include monsoons, cyclones and mudslides.
SOS Children’s Villages operates five child-friendly spaces in Cox’s Bazar offering Rohingya children a safe place to play and receive psychosocial care. The charity’s teachers, social workers and trauma counsellors are providing 300 children each day with access to informal education, healthcare, trauma counselling and malnutrition prevention. They are also supporting parents, so they are better able to protect and care for their children during the crisis, offering training and advice on child protection and positive parenting.
‘The Rohingya Crisis: A People in Exile’ exhibition is being held at the Guardian Media Group HQ in London from 6 December 2018 to 19 January 2019. Entry is free, and advanced booking is not required.
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Notes to editors:
For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at Lucy.Prioli@sosuk.org or on 01223 222 974.