Hundreds of orphaned or unaccompanied Rohingya children have been growing up with an uncertain future in refugee camps in Bangladesh for five years, when they were forced to cross the border to escape the repression of the Burma (Myanmar) Army against this minority.
Rohingya Ayesha Bibi, 11, is one of these minors. Bibi’s mother died when the girl was little and her father has not been heard from since she fled the country in 2017 with her maternal uncle. She often gets sad at the thought of him, though her memory of him is vague.
“We brought her with us because we didn’t know anything about her father,” Bibi’s uncle, Mohammad Ibrahim, 24, told to a source from one of the Cox’s Bazar camps in southeastern Bangladesh.
Bibi is registered as Mohammad’s family, who together with her mother and her two other brothers take care of her “like our own daughter”: “As long as we are alive, we will not allow anything to happen to her,” she said.
GIRLS WITHOUT LUCK
Hishma, eight years old, did not suffer the same fate, and since she arrived at the Cox’s Bazar camps, she has been cared for by the leader of the Rohingya community, Hosen Jahur, as there is no one from her family who can take care of her.
Hishma’s father died in a Burmese prison and her mother died three months after crossing the border.
“I can’t remember my parents’ faces. I don’t know what happened to them either,” laments the girl as she studies the Koran at an Islamic school inside the camp.
Before her death, Hishma’s mother asked Jahur to take care of her little girl.
“I am trying to take as much care as possible for him,” she says, adding that her mother, who lives elsewhere, is also raising two orphaned Rohingya children, Nur Bashar and Haulat Hossain.
Bibi, Hishma, Nur and Haulat are among hundreds of orphaned and unaccompanied Rohingya children growing up with an uncertain future in camps in Bangladesh.
Many of them lost one or both of their parents following the outbreak of the military crackdown in Burma on August 25, 2017, which forced some 774,000 Rohingya to flee and take refuge in Bangladesh.
HALF OF THE REFUGEES ARE CHILDREN
Five years later, and added to previous migrations, there are nearly a million Rohingya who live in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, almost half of them children, according to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Of the estimated 483,395 children living in Rohingya refugee camps, nearly 5,000 have disabilities, and a number of humanitarian organizations are working on the ground to identify those who arrived unaccompanied and reunite them with their families.
Between January and June 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners reunited approximately 500 children with their caregivers, according to the humanitarian agency’s spokeswoman in Cox’s Bazar, Regina de la Portilla.
“Volunteers provide psychosocial support for children and their caregivers, and positive parenting sessions are also organized for caregivers, including foster carers,” she told.
Save the Children also noted that it had reunited 563 unaccompanied children with their families in 24 camps since 2017, as well as providing alternative care for 625 children.
According to a representative of the international organization, they managed a total of 9,926 cases to support children with different child protection services.
In seeking the best possible future for separated, orphaned and unaccompanied children, UNICEF collaborates with the Bangladesh Department of Social Services and partner NGOs.
This includes developing individual care plans or referring them to specialized and follow-up services when necessary, said Unicef member Moyukh Mahtab.
“UNICEF strongly advocates for the deinstitutionalization of children in Bangladesh and alternative family-based or small group care, if necessary,” Mahtab said, making it a challenge to find families to take in children. these children.