The United Nations on Thursday warned of a potential loss of a generation of Rohingya children in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, reported Reuters. More than one million stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar after being subjected to violence by the country’s security forces.
“We are talking about risking the loss or the potential loss of a generation of Rohingya children,” said United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, spokesperson Simon Ingram in Geneva on Thursday. Ingram spent six weeks in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
“It isn’t just the half a million children or so on the Bangladeshi side of border but it is also those who are still left behind in Rakhine state, whose access to education is patchy at best and highly limited,” he said, adding that conditions in Rakhine were dangerous.
The UNICEF on Thursday also released a report on the state of Rohingya children, marking a year since the Rohingyas started fleeing to Bangladesh. The agency has warned that children living in cramped and rudimentary refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar face an uncertain future, with limited opportunities to learn and no idea when they might return home.
The refugees are not likely to return home anytime soon despite the two countries reaching an agreement on their repatriation last year, Ingram said. On Tuesday, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi said places have been demarcated to resettle the Rohingyas.
The United Nations agency said it would meet the needs of older children and increase the number of education programmes in camps in Bangladesh. At present, the camps cater to children up to the age of 14 years.
“If we do not make the investment in education now, we face the very real danger of seeing a ‘lost generation’ of Rohingya children, children who lack the skills they need to deal with their current situation, and who will be incapable of contributing to their society whenever they are able to return to Myanmar,” said UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder.
The report said a huge international assistance effort led by Bangladesh has managed to provide the refugees with basic services, and fears of major disease outbreaks have been averted for now.