More than 911,000 people have fled violence in Myanmar and are now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. They are surviving in extremely basic conditions. Of these, an estimated 7,700 are orphaned children.
People are in urgent need and so last summer we launched an emergency appeal to help those who had lost everything. Many people have generously given so that Tearfund and our partners can begin responding.
The crisis is ongoing, but there is hope. Here are three stories of how lives are being transformed.
The freedom to play
Every child should have the freedom to be themselves – to have fun and enjoy being a child. However, when conflicts happen this is one of the first things to go.
Alamgir* fled Myanmar with his wife and two children. Before arriving at the camp he was a farmer and the family owned their own home. But it wasn’t safe for them to stay. Alamgir was tortured, all of his crops were destroyed and the family made the painful decision to leave everything behind.
Although life in the camp is tough, he says it is better than being tortured. At least he and his family are safe.
One thing that has significantly improved their quality of life has been the introduction of child friendly spaces in the camps. These are a lifeline – a place for children to play and just be themselves, as well as take part in informal learning.
They are vital in making sure that the very real threat of a lost generation of Rohingya does not come true. Children in refugee camps are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, child marriage and other forms of exploitation and violence.
These spaces have brought back a sense of normality for Alamgir and his family, and for countless others too.
Alamgir is now a community leader in the area of the camp where he lives. This is a voluntary role, which helps those who live there have a voice in the day-to-day running of the camps. Now that the child-friendly space has been set up, he has more time to help out with issues that arise in the community, as he doesn’t have to keep coming back to check on his wife and children to make sure they are safe.
Zannatul works for one of our partners in Bangladesh, and helps to run the child-friendly spaces. Before these were created, children were shy and nervous. Now, she says, they are much happier. She has developed strong friendships with them. Zannatul is on hand to listen to the children, but also encourages them to stay away from unsafe areas in the camp and warns them about the dangers of trafficking.