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Rohingya explained

22 March 2018, Impact of Our Work, Emergencies

The Rohingya Crisis is the fastest-growing humanitarian emergency in the world today. Children and families in Bangladesh are in urgent need after fleeing violence in Myanmar.

A major escalation of violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has forced more than 655,000 Rohingya people to flee to Bangladesh – adding to 200,000 who had fled earlier conflict.

Camps that were separate are now one sprawling mass. The weather is fluctuating between punishing sun and torrential rain. Children and adults alike have to walk carefully across bamboo to avoid the streams of waste that run between temporary shelters. Their stories are harrowing. People talk of villages burnt to the ground and family members killed, of sexual violence and terrifying escapes.

Save the Children’s response

We have distributed shelter kits and food packs to families who are tired and hungry after days of walking to safety. Our emergency health teams have set up clinics, and provided hygiene kits to stop the spread of diseases among people who are already exhausted and vulnerable.

One of our biggest concerns is the safety and wellbeing of children, thousands of whom have arrived in Cox’s Bazar alone. Where possible, we’re working to reunite families – and when children are alone, and their family members have been killed, we are providing care and protection.

"The military came into our village at night … as we were fleeing, I turned around and saw my house totally burned down. " – Majuma* fled with her husband and son. They arrived in Cox’s Bazar in early September.

Hanida's story

Hanida* was nine months pregnant when violence forced her to flee her home. First her cows were stolen and then her neighbours’ homes went up in flames. Next came the shootings and rounding up of husbands and sons. Sometimes the men came back; sometimes they didn’t.

Heavily pregnant, Hanida could neither walk, nor run when her village came under attack. It took two days to cross the mountains, while carried on the back of her husband. Her other children walked barefoot through the jungled forest and across streams. They arrived in Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Remarkably, Hanida gave birth on the side of the road. This is one part of her harrowing story.

In their own words: Majuma*

“The military came into our village at night and started to burn our homes and they shot at us. Lots of people were killed or received bullet wounds. We left everything behind, taking nothing but the clothes we were wearing. They used a rocket launcher as we were fleeing. I turned around and saw my house totally burned down. I was so scared.

“It took us five days to get to the border. There was heavy rainfall on the way and the tracks were steep, going up and down mountains. It was incredibly difficult.

“We are feeling better here in Bangladesh because we’re not scared of the people in Myanmar anymore … but life here is very hard. My son is sick, he has diarrhoea and a fever. Most of the people here are getting sick.

“Water is a big problem here for us. I have to go far way to fetch water, it takes an hour each way and I need to go three times a day. I miss my house and belongings that we worked so hard for. In one day, we have to leave everything behind.”

Majuma fled her village with her husband and one-year-old son after it was attacked. It took them five days to reach Bangladesh on foot and they arrived in Cox’s Bazar at the start of September.

In their own words: Alia*

“The military came to our village and started setting houses on fire. My family and I fled into the jungle immediately to hide. I could watch the military burning down the entire village and killing people. They shot, cut up, and stabbed many men and women. I could see everything and I was very scared that they would find us and kill my family and I too.

“It took us three days to reach the border, walking throughout the nights … I saw three people dying from exhaustion, dehydration, and not being able to eat.

“I miss going to school … Burmese and English were my favourite subjects. I liked English in particular as it is spoken all over the world.

“Here in the refugee camp … at night, we all sleep on a plastic sheet, which is very cold, especially when it rains. I have become ill because of that. Life here is hard and I have a lot of nightmares about what I witnessed the day we fled our village. I really want to return to my home in Myanmar.”

In their own words: Nazrin*

Nazrin was playing with her brothers, Nurul and Kafayet, when they saw the military setting their village on fire. “When I saw the fire and the military, I got really scared and my family and I ran away into the jungle to find safety,” says Nazrin. “We fled with only the clothes on our back and it took us eight days to reach Bangladesh.

“I was in the third grade when the attack happened and now that I’m here, I can’t go to school anymore.

“Life in the refugee camp is horrible,” explain Nazrin's older brother, Nurul. “We have to share a latrine with a hundred other people and it is all the way up on the top of the hill. We have found shelter, but when it rains, the floor gets muddy and it is cold at night.

“If there was peace back home, I would like to return to our house and our farm. Everything was burned down, but I would like to rebuild our happy lives there.”

Nazrin is 10 years old and Nurul is 19. They fled their village with younger brother, Kafayet, and arrived in Cox’s Bazar at the start of October.

Our response to the Rohingya crisis

Save the Children is on the ground providing food, water and shelter, safe spaces for children, and hygiene kits to stop disease spreading among already vulnerable people. We’re also helping to reunite unaccompanied children with their families.

We’re distributing shelter and hygiene kits to families who have arrived with nothing.


We’ve set up spaces where children can play, recover and, crucially, continue learning.


We’ve set up emergency clinics to address the urgent need for life-saving healthcare.


We’re making sure children who are alone get 24-hour protection, and working to reunite families.

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. Before the escalation of violence in Myanmar at the end of August, there were already around 200,000 Rohingya living in camps and makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Save the Children has been working in Cox's Bazar since 2012, providing vital services to displaced Rohingya children and their families. But now the number of people in need has tripled in an incredibly short space of time and more help is desperately needed.

*names change for child protection


Hanina's story

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How Your Donations Are Helping Rohingya Children Who Have Fled to Bangladesh.

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