The world today is struck by a global refugee crisis, the magnitude of which is hard to map. And among the throngs of people displaced from their native homes, and struggling to find basic shelter are the Rohingya Muslims, often known as the most persecuted minority in the world.
Actor Priyanka Chopra visited Cox’ Bazar, too, as part of a UNICEF field visit.
I’m in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh today for a field visit with UNICEF, to one of the largest refugee camps in the world. In the second half of 2017, the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine State of Myanmar(Burma). This violence drove nearly 700,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh – 60% are children! Many months later they are still highly vulnerable, living in overcrowded camps with no idea when or where they will ever belong…even worse, when they will get their next meal. AND…as they finally start to settle and feel a sense of safety, monsoon season looms…threatening to destroy all that they’ve built so far. This is an entire generation of children that have no future in sight. Through their smiles I could see the vacancy in their eyes. These children are at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis, and they desperately need our help. The world needs to care. We need to care. These kids are our future. Pls Lend your support at www.supportunicef.org #ChildrenUprooted @unicef @unicefbangladesh Credit: @briansokol @hhhtravels
She posted images of the extremely destitute conditions that the refugees are facing, not just to reach the camp, but also after arriving at a settlement that has reached its limit to accommodate any more people.
Across the river is Myanmar(Burma.) It’s empty now, but a few months ago this area, known as “Sabrang,” was filled with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. Their trip here was filled with many hardships and tremendous danger. Many of them made their journey on foot, walking for days through the hills, then floating across the Naf River or the Bay of Bengal on make shift boats…many of them injured, pregnant, elderly, etc. Their ordeal didn’t end here…after entering Bangladesh, they would often have to wait for days, sleeping in the open fields with no food or water, for aid workers to reach them. For a lot of the Rohingya children, this ordeal will leave them scarred, physically and emotionally, for the rest of their lives. With your help, maybe these children can have a chance at a future…because right now, their future is bleak. The world needs to care. We need to care. Please lend your support at www.supportunicef.org #ChildrenUprooted @unicef @unicefbangladesh
Along with battling the lack of basic healthcare, no prospective future, and continuous starvation, the refugees stand to fight one of their most difficult battles now – the one against the climate.
Here’s everything to know about world’s largest refugee camp site, set up on Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh:
1. The Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, house over 1 million refugees, making it the world’s largest refugee camp.
2. As per a report by UNHCR, each individual house, made for 10 people, is currently housing 20-30 people.
3. The Rohingya Muslim crisis first started in 1982, and the camp has been running for the last 20 years; approximately since 1991, when the Rohingya Muslims first started coming to Bangladesh.
4. Denied citizenship from Myanmar, despite having an ancestry that can be traced back to the eighth century, the Rohingya Muslims were provided aid and shelter by Bangladesh, in its Cox’s Bazar.
5. Due to the horrific ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, 2017 alone saw the influx of more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims, that has put a severe strain on the camp resources.
6. Originally occupying only the Kutupalong area, the surrounding camps at Ghumdum, Balukhali, Thangkhali merged into Kutupalong in 2017.
The International Organisation of Migration (IOM), now refers to the collective settlement as the Kutupalong–Balukhali expansion site.
7. Earlier, there were primary schools in the camp that taught up to Grade 5.
However, it was reported that activities like education were temporarily stopped as communal buildings were used to house the new arrivals.
8. Vocational skills, such as tailoring, soap making etc. are taught to the refugees, and many are also encouraged to support the camp organizers.
After eight days of training, Somjida, 15 (standing), completed her first clothing item, a red blouse, at the UN Women supported Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre inside the Rohingya camp at Balukhali, Cox’s Bazar. … In the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, more than 688,800 #Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since August 2017, fleeing persecution in Myanmar, more than half of them women and girls. For their stories of loss and hopes of recovery, check the link in bio. 📷: UN Women/Allison Joyce
However, the trade they learn cannot be regularly practiced as they have no means to purchase basic equipment, and they are not allowed to conduct business outside of designated areas.
9. Since many refugees reside in makeshift camps (not government recognized) alongside the shelter, nearly 100,000 vulnerable families are in life-threatening danger from landslides, and floods, due to the fast approaching monsoon.
10. Emergency drills (such as the one conducted on March 1) are being conducted by United Nations, as given the scale of challenges, it is impossible to move everyone at risk.
The Rohingya Muslims, both the new arrivals and families that have been living in the area for over 20 years, have a bleak future ahead, despite aid from NGOs, UNHCR, and the local government.
When Mansur Ali, 12 yrs old, first came to the Child Friendly Space (CFS) at the Balukhali camp, he was only drawing scenes of bloodshed and violence. Helicopters shooting at him and his friends playing soccer… or his village and home being on fire with burning bodies all around him.. Today, his drawings reflect a more hopeful story, one we would like all these children to have. Since the #Rohingya children have arrived in Cox’s Bazar, they have been living in overcrowded camps with no real place that to call their own. Imagine a space that lets you forget your troubles and be a child again… even if its only for just a few hours a day. For the Rohingya children, over 300,000, in the camps in Bangladesh this is the only space that allows them to be kids. These Child Friendly Spaces created by @unicef give kids access to art, music, dance, sport, and counselling etc. The space has often proved to be very therapeutic, helping these kids deal with the horrific situations they faced.. the @unicef aid workers work tirelessly to make sure these children find their spirit again. It doesn’t matter where a child is from or what his or her circumstances are… NO child deserves a life without hope for the future. The world needs to care. We need to care. Please lend your support at www.supportunicef.org #childrenuprooted @unicef @unicefbangladesh
This was not the world their forefathers lived in, but this is the world many of these kids now inhabit – born in exile, with limited or no education, and no means to turn things around.
And going by the harsh conditions and the limited resources they have at their disposal, it is easy to believe that this is the only the world they can imagine a future in.
Until the tide changes, unfortunately, it might just sweep them apart first.
You can support their efforts and lend a helping hand to UNICEF in their efforts here.
All images from unhcr.org, unless otherwise specified. Feature image courtesy: reuters.com/Hannah McKay