Save the Children CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt has said overcrowding, lack of schooling and widespread desperation among the Rohingyas in camps and makeshift settlements in Bangladesh are putting children at an alarming risk of exploitation and abuse.
“There’re huge child protection concerns in the camps. A lot of desperate, hungry children are running around alone in crowded, chaotic settings where anything could happen,” she said while talking to reporters at the Save the Children’s Dhaka office on Saturday.
Schmidt, also former Prime Minister of Denmark, met the national and international media to discuss her experience of Bangladesh visit, Rohingya response plan, and how Save the Children is working in Bangladesh to give children a healthy start in life, opportunity to learn and protection from harm.
She visited the Rohingya camps on Friday to see for herself the situation of the displaced Rohingya people living in Cox’s Bazar makeshift settlements.
Schmidt came here on Thursday on a three-day visit to Bangladesh to observe the Rohingya influx crisis on the ground and Save the Children’s Bangladesh programme. As the CEO of Save the Children International, she oversees humanitarian and development programmes that reach 55 million children in around 120 countries.
Her visit also reinforced mobilisation of the urgently needed resources to provide life-saving humanitarian support to the displaced people, especially the protection of children in Cox’s Bazar and its host communities.
Over 450,000 school-age Rohingya children, including 270,000 who have arrived since August last, are currently out of school in Bangladesh, taking away one of the most important protective mechanisms for children.
Noting that it is a child protection disaster waiting to happen, the Save the Children CEO said this kind of situation leaves children who have already seen and experienced things that no child should ever see at a hugely increased risk of exploitation like trafficking, sexual abuse and child labor.
“One of the best ways we can protect children in this situation is to get them into classrooms; a safe space where they can learn, and can also benefit from things like psychosocial support and hygiene promotion. In a crisis like this, education is incredibly important for children,” she said.
Schmidt expressed grave concern about the number of separated and unaccompanied Rohingya children in Bangladesh.
Since August 25 last, around 6 lakh displaced Rohingya people have arrived in Cox’s Bazar alone and over 50 percent of them are children, marking the largest humanitarian crisis in Asia in recent time.