International aid group Save the Children has warned that Rohingya children are exposed to alarming risks of trafficking, sexual abuse and child labour due to overcrowding, lack of schooling and widespread desperation of people in the makeshift settlements in Cox's Bazar.
“There are huge child protection concerns in the camps. A lot of desperate, hungry children are running around alone in crowded, chaotic settings where anything could happen,” said Save the Children CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt during a press conference at a hotel in Dhaka today.
“It’s a child protection disaster waiting to happen. This kind of situation leaves children, who’ve already seen and experienced things that no child should ever see, at a hugely increased risk of exploitation like trafficking, sexual abuse and child labor," she said.
Helle, also a former Prime Minister of Denmark, who came to Bangladesh on October 19 on a three-day visit, visited the displaced Rohingya people living in makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar on October 20 to witness the situation.
She met the press today to discuss her experience of Bangladesh visit, Rohingya response plan, and how Save the Children is working in Bangladesh to give the children a healthy start in life, an opportunity to learn, and protection from harm.
The visit of Schmidt, who oversees humanitarian and development programs that reach 55 million children in around 120 countries, reinforced mobilisation of the urgently needed resources to provide life-saving humanitarian support to the displaced people, especially the protection of children in Cox’s Bazar and host communities, according to a statement.
More than 450,000 Rohingya children, who are of school-going age, are currently out of school in Bangladesh-- including 270,000 who have arrived since August 2017, Save the Children said.
“One of the best ways we can protect children in this situation is to get them into classrooms; a safe space where they can learn, and can also benefit from things like psychosocial support and hygiene promotion. In a crisis like this, education is incredibly important for children.”
Thorning-Schmidt also expressed grave concern about the number of separated and unaccompanied Rohingya children.
Mark Pierce, country director of Save the Children in Bangladesh, said there would be more support needed for children during winter due to cold weather and high risk of pneumonia.
By next year, Save the Children will provide support as equal to the amount of US$ 90 million to address Rohingya crisis, especially to protect and improve Rohingya children’s lives, he added.