Children arriving exhausted, scared, and hungry, account for about 31% of the 3,572 Rohingya refugees who have set off from Bangladesh and Myanmar this year, according to the UNHCR. This compares to 1,947 Rohingya refugees risking their lives at sea in the same period in 2022.
So far this year 225 Rohingya refugees have lost their lives during their boat journeys or are missing - twice as many as in the same period in 2022. Many more remain unaccounted for.
Children told Save the Children’s partner in Aceh, the Geutanyoe Foundation, how they spent 11 days at sea with food and water running out two days before their boat arrived in Indonesia.
Some children are currently sleeping in tents without blankets, mattresses or mosquito nets. There is also a need for medicines, hygiene kits and psychosocial support for the Rohingya refugees.
The majority of Rohingya refugees have left from Bangladesh where more than one million are living in the world’s largest refugee settlement since fleeing Myanmar six years ago.
Conditions in the camps are dire with many living in squalid and overcrowded conditions. Refugees are not allowed to work outside the camps and are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. Food assistance has been cut twice this year to 27 U.S. cents per person per day due to a massive shortfall in funding.
Sultana Begum, Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Manager for Save the Children in Asia, said:
“Rohingya children are putting their lives on the line by taking these extremely dangerous journeys. Many of them are on boats for days, sometimes even weeks, and are desperate for food and water when they reach land. No child should have to endure weeks at sea in a flimsy boat. The increase we are seeing this year is extremely worrying.
“Those attempting sea journeys are at risk of abuse, exploitation and even death at sea. The desperate situation of Rohingya families is forcing them to take unacceptable risks in search of a better life. These perilous journeys show that many Rohingya refugees have lost all hope.
“Regional governments must urgently honour their international obligations and commitments outlined in the Bali Declaration by facilitating safe landings for Rohingya refugee boats. It's time for a swift and unified regional effort to enhance cooperation, save lives at sea, guarantee secure disembarkation, and provide people with access to humanitarian aid and procedures to determine their refugee status.”
Save the Children has called on the international community to step up financial contributions and ensure the humanitarian response plan for the Rohingya refugees is fully funded. They should also work with the Bangladesh government to explore options for large-scale third country resettlement and support the expansion of formal employment and educational opportunities for Rohingya refugees and the host community.
Save the Children is one of the leading international NGOs working in the Cox’s Bazar camps in Bangladesh. It has reached about 600,000 Rohingya refugees, including more than 320,000 children, since the response began in 2017.
Save the Children, with the support of the Bangladesh government, is running over 100 centres that support children’s learning and well-being in their mother tongue - Rohingya. Now we are helping these children learn Burmese by using the Myanmar curriculum.
MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0425562113
NOTES TO EDITOR:
Figures cited are from the UNHCR with comparative figures sourced from https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/myanmar#powerbi. Data was last updated 22 November 2023.