Rohingya crisis

In August 2017 the Myanmar military attacked the country’s Rohingya community - burning villages to the ground and killing or assaulting thousands of innocents. The wave of unprecedented violence against the long-persecuted community forced thousands of families to flee for their lives. They walked for days through jungles and mountain ranges and faced violence and starvation at the hands of human-traffickers as they made the dangerous passage across the Bay of Bengal.

Two years later, half a million children remain in exile in Bangladesh. Traumatised by the atrocities they witnessed, under threat from natural disasters and human predators and without the chance to return to school, the future for Rohingya children looks bleak.

Half of all Rohingya refugees are children – 40,000 of them are without parental care.

Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh has become the world’s largest refugee settlement, hosting one million displaced people from the Rohingya community. Half of the refugees are children. Conditions at the settlement are appalling and without access to proper food, clean water or sanitation disease outbreaks and child-malnutrition are a constant threat. There are no schools, few basic services and only one hospital to provide care for nearly 1.3 million vulnerable people.

Most children are living in bamboo huts which offer little protection against extreme weather events like monsoons which are common in this disaster-prone region of Bangladesh. With few opportunities for parents to find steady employment, extreme poverty has left children vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and abuse. 

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How we are helping

SOS Children’s Villages is working in refugee camps across Cox’s Bazar to offer vulnerable children the care and protection they need. Our childcare specialists - including teachers, social workers and trauma counsellors - are ensuring children’s basic and psychosocial needs are met and helping them cope with the upheaval, loss and abuse they have experienced.

We operate five child-friendly spaces in Cox’s Bazar that are:

  • Offering 300 at-risk children, aged three to 12 years, a safe place to play and recuperate every day
  • Providing access to healthcare and trauma counselling
  • Preventing malnutrition with healthy food, nutritional screenings and hygiene
  • Training caregivers in positive parenting
  • Giving children access to an informal education 

Background on the Rohingya Crisis

When Rohingya insurgent group ARSA killed 12 security officers in Myanmar on 25 August 2017 the military mounted a bloody reprisal against Rohingya civilians – including women and children. In what the UN has termed a “textbook example of ethnic cleaning” the military perpetrated widespread war crimes against the Rohingya population using torture, rape, murder and enslavement as tools of war.

Within a month at least 6,700 people, 730 younger than five years old, had been murdered. Since then more than 280 Rohingya villages have been set ablaze and almost the entire Rohingya population of Myanmar – which exceeded one million people – has been forced to flee the country. UN calls for military leaders to be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court have received international backing, including from UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The attacks are just the latest in a series of military crackdowns directed against the persecuted minority group since the 1970s. Despite being an indigenous population, members of the Rohingya community are denied citizenship and prohibited from voting or submitting candidates for the country’s fledgling democratic elections.