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UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Says Rohingya Children in a Dire State

The UN children’s agency has issued a report that documents the plight of children who account for 58% of the refugees who have poured into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – AP Photo

 

GENEVA – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday, that nearly 340,000 Rohingya children are living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh camps where they lack enough food, clean water and health care.

Up to 12,000 more children join them every week, fleeing violence or hunger in Myanmar, often still traumatized by atrocities they witnessed, it said in a report “Outcast and Desperate”.

In all, almost 600,000 Rohingya refugees have left northern Rakhine state since Aug. 25 when the U.N. says the Myanmar army began a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” following insurgent attacks.

“This isn’t going to be a short-term, it isn’t going to end anytime soon,” Simon Ingram, the report’s author and a UNICEF official, told a news briefing.

“So it is absolutely critical that the borders remain open and that protection for children is given and equally that children born in Bangladesh have their birth registered.”

Rohingya Muslims, who spent four days in the open after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, sit in a truck after they were allowed to proceed towards a refugee camp, at Palong Khali, Bangladesh, on Thursday. (AP photo)

Most Rohingya are stateless in Myanmar and many fled without papers, he said, adding of the newborns in Bangladesh: “Without an identity they have no chance of ever assimilating into any society effectively.”

Safe drinking water and toilets are in “desperately short supply” in the chaotic, teeming camps and settlements, Ingram said after spending two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

One in five Rohingya children under the age of five is estimated to be acutely malnourished, requiring medical attention, he said.

“There is a very, very severe risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases, diarrhea and quite conceivably cholera in the longer-term,” he added.

A Rohingya refugee girl poses with a chicken at Balukhali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh October 17, 2017.- Photo Jorge Silva

UNICEF is providing clean water and toilets, and has helped vaccinate children against measles and cholera, which can be deadly, he said.

The agency is seeking $76 million under a $434 million U.N. appeal for Rohingya refugees for six months, but is only 7 percent funded, he said, speaking ahead of a pledging conference in Geneva on Monday.

U.N. agencies are still demanding access to northern Rakhine, where an unknown number of Rohingya remain despite U.N. reports that many villages and food stocks have been burned.

“We repeat the call for the need for protection of all children in Rakhine state, this is an absolute fundamental requirement. The atrocities against children and civilians must end,” Ingram said.

“We just must keep putting it on the record, we cannot keep silent.”

By Stephanie Nebehay
REUTERS

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