MORE Rohingya refugees, including babies and children, have drowned attempting to flee violence in Myanmar, the UN Migration Agency confirmed this week.
Four died and dozens were taken to hospital after a small wooden boat carrying refugees capsized off the Bangladesh coast on Tuesday. Just hours earlier, three infants, aged between three and ten months, died when they fell from a boat as it neared the shore.
The Rohingya crisis is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world: more than 600,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh since the end of August (News, 6 October). The majority of them are living in makeshift settlements, and charities fear for the safety of the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.
The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, urged the UK Government to do more to help, describing it as a “deep human tragedy. . . We must do more to protect women and children.”
A coalition of Methodist aid agencies from around the world has launched a fresh appeal to support their humanitarian relief efforts (News, 27 October).
A study by the International Organization for Migration found that children made up 58 per cent of all refugees who had fled to Bangladesh. These children told the charity that they felt unsafe in three-quarters of refugee sites. Many of the children are unaccompanied, and more than 2000 child refugees are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Three per cent of the women are arriving in camp are pregnant, and a further six per cent are breastfeeding mothers, the UN has said. The Christian charity World Vision is working to open safe spaces for women and children who have been abused.
World Vision UK’s political advocacy officer, Amy Johnson, said: “Immediate funding of child-protection programming is essential to ensure children’s well-being and survival during and after the crisis; but, sadly, it is often forgotten.
“We hope the Bishop’s call for greater protection of vulnerable women and girls will encourage the government to lead the way on child protection in this underfunded humanitarian response.”