The needs of vulnerable Rohingya children arriving in Bangladesh must be prioritised by the international community, says child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.
According to the organisation, adolescent girls in particular must be protected, as they are one of the groups most at-risk of gender-based violence within the camps.
With many new arrivals having already suffered extreme violence – including sexual mutilation and gang rape, according to the UN – it is essential that funds are made available to provide appropriate care and support for survivors, the organisation says.
Speaking ahead of the UN’s pledging conference on the Rohingya crisis, Orla Murphy – Plan International’s Country Director in Bangladesh – said:
“The majority of those arriving in Bangladesh from Myanmar are women and children. They have reached Cox’s Bazar in severe distress and complete and utter exhaustion. Many are orphaned and unaccompanied children, many are child mothers, many are about to give birth, and many are still nursing their very young infants.
“On top of landmine injuries and gunshot wounds, many have experienced horrific sexual violence. All are in desperate need of help and it is imperative that funding becomes available so that vital psychosocial support and life-saving interventions can be scaled up and we are able to assist those most in need.”
Plan International is urging the international community to treat child protection, including prevention and response activities aimed at gender-based violence, with the same urgency as the provision of food, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene services.
The organisation is already working in Balukhali settlement in Cox’s Bazar building latrines and providing essential hygiene kits, but is deeply concerned about the urgent needs and protection concerns of orphaned and unaccompanied children arriving at the camps.
Along with other humanitarian agencies, the organisation is urging the Government of Bangladesh to facilitate and secure the full and unhindered access of humanitarian actors so that its child protection response can be scaled up.
“For unaccompanied children – particularly girls – there is a very real risk of sexual violence,” says Murphy. “This is partly because the informal settlements that are being built fail to meet basic safety standards. The camps are overcrowded, there is no privacy, anyone from outside can wander in off the streets, and the shelters that are being constructed have no doors or locks.
“These things could easily be addressed if funding was not so limited and there was better humanitarian access. We are already working with the Government of Bangladesh and UNICEF to register unaccompanied children, but there is a huge funding gap that needs to be filled. We need to act swiftly to ensure there is enough capacity to deal with the already high numbers of vulnerable children in the camps, and to ensure that the rapid increase in the numbers of children arriving does not overstretch the limited services that are currently available.”
For media enquiries please contact:
Kirsty Cameron, Global Press Officer, Plan International
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