Rohingya refugee children who lack proper education in camps in Bangladesh could become a “lost generation”, the United Nations said on Thursday, a year after Myanmar’s army began a crackdown that has forced more than 700,000 people to flee the country.
The lives and futures of more than 380,000 children in refugee camps in Bangladesh are in peril, while hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children still in Myanmar are cut off from aid, said a report by the UN children’s agency (Unicef).
Bangladesh prohibits refugees from receiving formal education, because the government is concerned the predominantly Muslim Rohingya population might become a “permanent fixture”, Unicef spokesman Alastair Lawson-Tancred said.
At the outset of the refugee crisis, aid agencies set up informal learning centres for children aged three to 14, but older teenagers feel alienated and hopeless, Lawson-Tancred said.
“Unquestionably, there is a danger that we might be facing a lost generation,” he said from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have large groups of disaffected youth on your hands.”
Most of the refugees crossed the border within the first four months of military operations, which began after Rohingya insurgents launched deadly attacks on security forces in the frontier state of Rakhine on 25 August 2017.
Myanmar officials have repeatedly denied that soldiers carried out atrocities against Rohingya civilians, which have been documented by activists and include rape, murder and arson.
One in two Rohingya children who fled to Bangladesh without their parents were orphaned by violence, while more than 6,000 children living in Cox’s Bazar are alone or have to fend for themselves, a study by charity Save the Children found this week.
Aid agencies have managed to provide basic services, but the crisis is far from over, with refugees in overcrowded camps at risk of floods, landslides and disease, according to Unicef.
Hundreds of sexual violence cases are reported each week Cox’s Bazar, Oxfam said in a statement this week. “Women and girls are now paying the price in terms of their wellbeing and safety,” said Dorothy Sang at the charity.>