5 things you need to know about the Rohingya crisis

December 13, 2017
Photo by Kieran McConville

Outbreaks of violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, have forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people to flee their homes. There are numerous reports of widespread violence against men, women and children. Here are five things you need to know about the deepening crisis.

1. Who are the Rohingya?

Often described as the “world’s most persecuted minority,” the Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, mostly concentrated in Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest states. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations, many migrating from Bangladesh during British rule. After gaining independence, Myanmar, a majority Buddhist nation, refused to acknowledge the Rohingya as citizens, rendering them a stateless people.

Khaleda*, a new arrival at Moynadhona refugee camp for Rohingya in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Khaleda*, a new arrival at Moynadhona refugee camp for Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: Kieran McConville *Name changed for security

Without recognition as citizens or permanent residents of the country, the Rohingya have limited access to education, jobs, and health services, resulting in chronic poverty and marginalization. Violence targeting Rohingya over the last several decades has driven hundreds of thousands to neighboring countries.

2. What is happening now?

More than 655,000 Rohingya people have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, fleeing ethnic violence in Rakhine State in Myanmar’s southwest. 58% of them are children.Well over a third of Myanmar’s Rohingya population — roughly 1.1 million people — are now seeking safety elsewhere.

Rohingya refugees at Hakim Para in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees at Hakim Para in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Myanmar is less than two miles away, visible in the distance. Photo: Kieran McConville

The mass exodus has increased the total Rohingya population in Bangladesh to more than 800,000. In particular, the number of Rohingya people in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area has nearly tripled, and over half of the new arrivals are still living in informal settlements with little or no shelter, food, clean water, or sanitation. Most are completely dependent on support from aid agencies.

3. What help is needed most?

People are in continuing need of shelter, medical care, food, water, and sanitation facilities as they arrive exhausted and traumatized into overflowing camps and settlements.

Layru* and her two-year-old daughter Hala* at a Concern nutrition support center at Hakim Para camp in Bangladesh.

Layru* and her two-year-old daughter Hala* at a Concern nutrition support center at Hakim Para camp in Bangladesh. Hala weighed less than 12 pounds when admitted. Layru says the family walked for 15 days to escape Myanmar, with little or no food along the way. She has three other children. Photo: Kieran McConville *Names changed for security

The cyclone season will hit between April and June next year and the humanitarian community is rushing to ensure that the Rohingya people are not left exposed – A existing shelters are not designed to withstand high winds. Without proper water and sanitation facilities, waterborne illnesses can spread quickly in crowded camps, posing a particular risk to children and older people.

4. What is Concern doing?

Concern has been working with partners, the armed forces and local administration to identify those most in need of emergency hygiene kits, sleeping mats, blankets and household items. We will begin delivery to 5,000 families in three camps in the coming weeks.

With fears of malnutrition rising, our team has set up four nutrition centers and has been working flat out to screen children and rush those suffering from malnutrition through to treatment. So far, we have screened over 77,000 children, and referred over 3,000 for severe acute malnutrition treatment, and almost 12,000 for medium acute malnutrition. We have also counselled over 14,000 pregnant women and new mothers in infant feeding practices to empower them to prevent malnutrition where possible.

A recent agreement between the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar aims to repatriate many of those who have been displaced, but that will be a complex operation, which could take many months or even yeas. Our team on the ground aims to ensure that the basic needs of the most vulnerable are met and child malnutrition is identified and treated.

Our response in 60 seconds

5. What can you do to help?

You can help us reach more Rohingya families in Bangladesh — and save more lives.