Right now, more than 800,000 Rohingya people have fled violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and arrived in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar to seek safety, shelter and refuge.
Many of the new arrivals are women and children – with initial estimates suggesting that 53% are female, 58% are under the age of 18 and 10% are either pregnant or lactating mothers.
These individuals have endured immense hardship, including loss of family members, as they made their perilous journey through the jungle to the muddy hillsides of Cox’s Bazar. Many have travelled without food and on foot, while also braving monsoon rains and intense heat.
In Cox’s Bazar, the situation is critical with many children, women and families in urgent need of food, supplies and medical attention.
Plan International has launched a humanitarian response in Bangladesh to support the Rohingya people, with an initial response focusing on reuniting children with their families and addressing the desperate need for clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
In the midst of this crisis, women and girls are left vulnerable to violence, trafficking and exploitation. Many also experience increased health risks due to pregnancy and lack of adequate sanitation facilities to manage their menstrual cycles.
Meet 3 women and girls who are currently residing in Cox’s Bazar and hear their stories of resilience and courage:
Nine months pregnant and facing a future filled with uncertainty, Anjuman and Osman, her husband, are worried about the impending birth of their baby at their makeshift camp where there is no clean water and no sanitation facilities.
“I am due to give birth any day now,” says Anjuman. “I am very worried about my delivery.”
Before violence broke out in Myanmar, Anjuman and Osman ran a grocery shop and were able to make ends meet. Now, they are dependent on aid to provide for them.
“It is hard to rely on other people when we are used to providing for ourselves,” she says, adding that the current lack of sanitation facilities is making life more difficult.
“When I need to use a toilet, I have to wait until night and go up the hill, because there are no latrines near where we live,” she says. “I haven’t had a shower since I came here. There is no water source around here.”
With the birth of her baby set to happen at any moment, Anjuman feels nervous about what the future holds.
“I don’t know what will happen to me,” she says.
“I don’t know where my destiny lies and how long I will have to continue like this,” says Modina, whose husband was killed in the conflict in Myanmar.
“When we left [Myanmar], I was carrying my younger child, and the older one was asking for her father, but I couldn’t answer.”
Modina, along with her two children, arrived in Bangladesh in September and the lack of food and sanitation in her camp has become a serious concern.
Thousands of people are camping in the open with little or no shelter in Cox’s Bazar. They have no access to clean water or toilets and with every new arrival, the challenges continue to grow.
“I can’t remember the last time I bathed,” she says, adding that her children inspire her to stay strong.
“My children keep me going, my husband’s appearance reflects in their faces.”
After her father passed away from a gunshot wound, Nurkaida, her brothers and her mother fled to Bangladesh to seek safety and refuge from the conflict in Myanmar.
Speaking about her old life, Nurkaida says, “We had our own house, cattle, a hand pump, a big toilet and I had my own room. My friends used to come round all the time and we had a big yard where we all played.”
“It’s so different here. The tent is small, water is very scarce, there are no toilets and it is hard with so little food.”
Nurkaida would love to go to school, however she does not feel safe in her surroundings because adolescent girls, in particular, are one of the groups most at risk of gender-based violence within the camps.
“I feel insecure in this community because everyone stares at me when I go out. So I stay at home and support my mother,” she says.
We’re on the ground responding to the rohingya crisis
Plan International is deeply concerned about the fate of thousands of people, particularly children, affected by the on-going violence and calls for an end to the violence, the protection of all civilians in all areas, and the respect of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.
We are also increasingly worried about the fatal risks that men, women, and children are facing to flee the violence, as well as vulnerable populations such as adolescent girls, unaccompanied and separated children, children under five, and pregnant and lactating women.
Alongside food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene support, we believe that child protection, including prevention and response activities aimed at sexual and gender-based violence, and education for forcibly displaced children, should be prioritized.
To date our response efforts have ensured:
- Over 500 hygiene awareness sessions were conducted
- More than 7,000 hygiene kits have been distributed to families in greatest need
- And over 31,000 children, women and men have been reached with sanitation and protection support, including the creation of emergency latrines across 28 communities.
You can help too
Your support is urgently needed to help children and their families to recover.
Donations made between October 31 and November 28 will have twice the impact with a dollar-for-dollar match to the Government of Canada’s Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund.