Rohingya children face injury, loss of family while escaping Myanmar

World Today

In this Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 photo, 25-year-old Rohingya Muslim woman Zahida Begum cradles her few-hours-old son who she gave birth to alone in the toilet outside the room, at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Begum had crossed into Bangladesh on Sept. 1, with her two young sons, husband and mother, fleeing shootings and arson attacks by Myanmar army soldiers and local monks. New arrivals like Begum and her family survive here on the kindness of older refugees and food handouts from local volunteers and aid groups: Rice and curry once a day if they are lucky. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

An estimated 270,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh in the last two weeks, according to the United Nations. As more asylum seekers flee violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar, the attention is beginning to shift to the children making the dangerous journey.

CGTN’s Ravinder Bawa spoke to a few of those children searching for safety.
Follow Ravinder Bawa on Twitter @ravsbaws

Abdullah is one of the few lucky enough to be reunited with his family after a near death experience while fleeing to Bangladesh. Lucky, however, doesn’t mean he can escape the pain of his gunshot wound.

“I was bleeding and could not even lift my hand,” Abdullah recounted. “I had to find a stick and with the support of the stick I slowly walked with other people to come here. After I arrived, I was taken to the hospital.”

After seven days he was spotted by a relative in a hospital where he was undergoing treatment.

Even surrounded by the comfort of his family, he still has nightmares. His father works to relax the boy as he goes through the pain of bandaging his injury every day.

“When the memories of those days come to my mind I feel very scared. I am petrified just thinking about the bullet,” according to Abdullah.

Others are not as lucky as Abdullah. Yasmine Akhtar also completed the journey from her village to a new country filled with strangers. She had no one to come to look for when she arrived in Bangladesh, as violence had killed all of her family members.

“A bullet killed my father when he went to the market during last year’s violence,” Yasmin says. “This time they burnt my mother. I was terrified and I hid in a paddy field when I saw a big group of people walking towards me. I joined that group and came here.”

The girl now lives with a teacher, Mohammed Hussain, who spotted her all alone on a street.

“She was getting wet in the rain. It was raining heavily. She was crying and shivering. She could not speak a word so I brought her home and we gave her some food and clothes.”

According to aid agencies, many children like Yasmine cross the border unaccompanied. They said 1/3 of Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh are children, and it is a challenge to provide facilities for them.

“These kids are alone, and that is very risky as they could be taken advantage of,” according toVivian Tan, a UNHCR spokesperson. “They could get trafficked, and that’s why it is very important to give them protection.”

In addition to emotional and psychological support, the children need education, which is hard to come by in camps like Kutupalong. Twelve schools have been converted into shelters, and the authorities say they will not reopen anytime soon.

Abdullah was enrolled in a school in Myanmar, but in Bangladesh has no school or even books. Like most children, he also searches the streets, trying to collect food packets for his family.