UN finds one-third of Rohingya families in refugee camps are ‘vulnerable’

World Today

A study of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who fled the recent violence in Myanmar finds one third of all families are living in a vulnerable state.

CGTN’s Shweta Bajaj reports.

Follow Shweta Bajaj on Twitter @ShwetaBajaj

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) did the survey, collecting data from 517,643 refugees. The survey was designed to measure how aid and relief work meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar. As the exodus continues, the challenges will only rise.

CGTN met Noorasha Begum while she was fetching medicines for her four children. She left three of them in the makeshift camp she now lives in. She brings along her youngest, an infant. Noorasha’s husband was arrested by the military when she escaped Myanmar with her children. She hasn’t heard from him since then.

“My children don’t have a father now,” she said. “I try and make them survive with the rations and medicines I manage to get from the aid agencies. I have left the rest of our lives in the hands of God.”

20-year-old Rukhia waits to collect medicines for her four children at a camp.

According to the UNHCR study, 14 percent of Rohingya refugee families are headed by single mothers like Noorasha. Many are uneducated, poor and burdened with emotional scars.

Noorasha’s story is typical among the families in Cox’s Bazar’s largest refugee camp. Many have lost their caretakers and breadwinners.

UNHCR went shelter-to-shelter counting these families. It also found a high proportion of unaccompanied children who either became separated from their parents during their exodus or whose parents died. Many of these young children are taking care of even younger siblings.

Children, many unaccompanied, brave the scorching heat to collect food.

Mohammed Abu Asakar, a UNHCR spokesman said, “We need to remember that this is the fastest refugee situation in the world today and we have witnessed 10,000 people flee every single day in the last few months and in order to respond to everybody’s needs, that requires huge amounts of support.”

The study only makes official what is clearly seen at these camps. Many elderly were also counted, and their health needs are immense. Among women and children malnutrition is common. Many went for days without food while they walked the long journey to get to Bangladesh.

Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

The study is aimed at better matching humanitarian assistance to the actual needs of the refugees, but the varied conditions of more than 600,000 Rohingyas who reached Bangladesh in the last three months pose a monumental challenge for Bangladesh and the aid agencies assisting it.