Crisis 101

Rohingya Refugee Crisis Explained

map of bangladesh and myanmarIn late August 2017, armed attacks, arson and mob violence forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar, and start their journey towards Bangladesh, in what quickly became the fastest growing refugee influx the world had seen in decades. They brought with them only the few possessions that they could carry, they carried children and the elderly and they crossed dangerous rivers to reach safety.

Here’s What You Need to Know:

1. What does it mean to be Rohingya?

2. How many Rohingya Muslims are living as refugees in Bangladesh? And where in Bangladesh are they living?

3. How are monsoons impacting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh?

4. How is UNHCR ensuring that Rohingya children get an education?

5. How is UNHCR supporting refugee representation and female leadership among the Rohingya population?

What does it mean to be Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority. Because of their ethnicity, they are not recognized as citizens of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country, making them a stateless population. Despite living in Myanmar for many generations, they are not afforded the same rights as its citizens, such as the right to obtain birth certificates, attend school and work legally in the country.

Rohingya children in Bangladesh

How many Rohingya Muslims are living as refugees in Bangladesh? And where in Bangladesh are they living?

There are 912,373 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region, 742,613 of whom arrived after violent attacks began in August 2017. More than half of those who have arrived are women and children. Most Rohingya refugees now reside in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee settlement. UNHCR provides immediate and long-term services to this population including psychosocial support, food, water, shelter, health services and more.

How are monsoons impacting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh?  

Every year, deadly monsoons plague the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh, home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees. In 2018, to prepare for monsoon season, UNHCR relocated more than 24,000 individuals and distributed over 150,000 monsoon preparation kits to help refugees put up sturdier homes and anchor existing structures. This year, UNHCR has already distributed 90,000 monsoon preparation kits, constructed 50 miles of roads, bridges and infrastructure and prepared 100,000 post-disaster kits.

UNHCR also ensures that refugees are at the center of the response, training Rohingya volunteers on first aid and other emergency procedures. So far, UNHCR has trained over 1,200 refugees as emergency responders and reached more than 80,000 refugees with community-led awareness sessions on emergency preparedness.

How is UNHCR ensuring that Rohingya children get an education?

At least 50 percent of Rohingya refugee girls and 42 percent of Rohingya refugee boys report not having completed any formal education when they were in Myanmar. One of the most important goals of UNHCR’s response is providing the estimated 502,000 Rohingya children in Bangladesh with access to education. UNHCR and partner organizations have built 1,602 learning spaces for Rohingya refugees and deployed 1,251 trained teachers since 2017.

Rohingya children studying in school in Bangladesh

How is UNHCR supporting refugee representation and female leadership among the Rohingya population?

Respecting the autonomy, leadership and input of refugees is essential when responding to a crisis. With this in mind, UNHCR and partners have supported elections for refugee representatives in several Rohingya settlements. These elections are an important step towards connecting refugees to the refugee governance system and its representatives, who have an important role in relaying information to the community and communicating refugees’ complaints and feedback to camp authorities. 

Electing women was a requirement of this leadership initiative. In the Nayapara camp, for example, female refugees were chosen to occupy half of the available administrative seats, including those of Camp Leader and Deputy Leader, representing over 42,000 people. As a result, the voices of refugee girls and women are being heard.

Woman in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh need your help…

UNHCR is on the ground providing lifesaving humanitarian support to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. However, they need your help. Becoming a monthly donor is the most efficient and effective way to help those fleeing conflict. Make a difference in the lives of refugees by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor

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