Rohingya Crisis Appeal: why 2018 is the year we need to keep giving
At the end of last year, I spent two months working in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
It’s now home to more than 800,000 Rohingya people, who have fled the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
During my time there, I saw incredible acts of resilience, courage and bravery. But there’s no escaping the reality of what people have experienced – and what they now face.
Homes are makeshift and built from plastic sheeting. Children can be found playing with toys made from things they find on the pathways: plastic bags, bottle tops, discarded bottles and pieces of string.
Many women and young girls, in particular adolescent girls, are confined to their shelters all day, where their safety still isn’t guaranteed. And everyone is haunted by their memories, wondering if they'll ever see their homes again – and if they do, whether they will be safe there.
My most emotionally difficult response
I have worked on emergency responses in countries including Afghanistan and South Sudan, but my time in Cox’s Bazar was undoubtedly the most difficult emotionally.
People are coping. Somehow, against the odds, they are managing to smile and get on with their lives. But I’ve seen children start to cry every time a soldier from the camp walks past, and drawings by five-year-olds showing blood, guns and houses on fire.
No child should even imagine that, let alone witness something so terrifying.
As a new year begins, and news coverage from the camps fades from our TV screens, it’s easy to think the crisis is over – but that’s far from the truth.
Thanks to the amazing generosity of Plan International supporters donating to our Rohingya Crisis Appeal, our dignity kits, hygiene kits, toilets and bathing spaces have made a huge difference to people living in the camps. But there are still thousands of others in need of these essentials.
Making sure children feel safe
By the time I left Bangladesh, around 5,000 children in Cox’s Bazar remained unaccompanied or separated from their families, according to the UNHCR’s household counting exercise.
For them, childhood now means wondering if they’ll have a safe place to sleep at night, whether they’ll find any surviving family members they still have, or when their next meal might be.
It’s almost too heart-breaking to comprehend – and it’s why the work of Plan International and other NGOs must continue over the coming months, so the Rohingya people and their experiences do not get forgotten.
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