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More than half Rohingya refugees are children facing health risks

Over 200,000 children are at risk from malnutrition, epidemics and trauma as Rohingya refugee numbers increase

More than half Rohingya refugees are children facing health risks

Rashida Begum, 14, from Maungdaw in Rakhine State, was hit by a stray bullet and got treatment after reaching Bangladesh after a 11-day journey. (ucanews.com photo)

Stephan Uttom, Cox's Bazar, Rock Ronald Rozario, Dhaka
Bangladesh

September 14, 2017

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More than 200,000 children of Rohingya refugees, more than 60 percent of the people who fled violence in Myanmar's Rakhine State to makeshift camps in Bangladesh, face grave health risks.

At least 200 Rohingya children have died due to malnutrition, lack of medical treatment or in boat capsizes on the Naf River while fleeing violence in Rakhine State.

More than 1,000 children have arrived separated from their parents and some 100 babies were born in the "no man's land" between Bangladesh and Myanmar a week after violence erupted on Aug. 25.

The latest estimates from the United Nations suggest about 370,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks.

"The scale and the speed of this influx are unprecedented. This is a growing humanitarian crisis and children are at the heart of this crisis. Sixty percent of all refugees are children according to preliminary data," UNICEF spokesperson Jean Lieby said in a statement.

"The first thing you see here in the different Rohingya camps are the large number of children. You see children, who have not slept for days — they are weak and hungry. After such a long and challenging journey many children are sick and they need health care right away," said Lieby.

"Children are traumatized. They need protection and psychological support. We also see pregnant mothers and we know that many babies were born since their mothers' arrival in Bangladesh," he added.

 

A Rohingya refugee mother with her newborn baby at a camp in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar district, Bangladesh. (ucanews.com photo)

 

Fourteen-year-old Rashida Begum had her cheek hit by a stray bullet before she fled to Bangladesh from Maungdaw in Rakhine with her parents.

She was treated at a hospital in Cox's Bazar but was still unable to speak due to pain.

"It was the night before Eid-ul-Adha when the military came to our village and started firing indiscriminately, and one bullet hit her cheek," Abdul Hai, Rashida's father told ucanews.com.

"As the military set alight houses all our belongings were destroyed and we fled, penniless. We reached Bangladesh after a perilous 11-day journey," he said.

Noor Muhammad, 32, a father of four, said they decided to flee to Bangladesh with their newborn baby.

"The military came to the village ten days ago, just after our youngest child was born. Our house was burned down and we fled fearing for lives," Muhammad told ucanews.com.

"On our way to Bangladesh we didn't eat for five days but our children didn't cry. Maybe they have also realized our suffering," he added.

Doctor Edward Pallab Rozario, head of health projects at Catholic charity Caritas Bangladesh also warned that without substantial support, refugee children face mortal risks.

"These children need treatment, nutritious food, safe water, housing and sanitation. Otherwise, there is a risk of epidemics, malnutrition, cold, fever and diarrheal diseases," Rozario said.

"The government has allowed international and national aid groups to work among refugees, so Caritas will do everything possible to help refugees with special focus on children," he added.

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