Jan 25, 2021

Update: Children in the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Asheka, 16 year old youth volunteer
Asheka, 16 year old youth volunteer

Dear Friend,

In 2017, escalating violence triggered an exodus of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Men, women and children brought with them accounts of the unspeakable atrocities. The survivors, holding onto little more than memories of loved ones lost, fled their homes and crossed the border into Bangladesh. It was an agonizing journey for those who survived. They walked many miles, crossed mountains, rivers and the bay. For some the journey took a few days, for others over one month. Children carried whatever belongings they could grab while fleeing home, but the greatest burdens were pain, fear, exhaustion, starvation and thirst.

In Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, UNICEF and implementing partners are providing health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education, child protection and gender-based violence services at scale. UNICEF works with the government to help connect children with the services, supplies and care they need for a fresh start and a bright future. Since their arrival in Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees grappled with new challenges – floods, landslides, severe storms and now, they are fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.

From this tragedy, inspiring tales also started to emerge. There are stories of courage, determination and strength to rebuild lives from scratch in challenging and overcrowded refugee camps. Thousands of Rohingya children, youth and women are leading this endeavor, striving for a hopeful, better future. There are now nearly 860,000 Rohingya people living in exile in the world’s largest refugee settlement, located in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Over half of them are children.

“I miss my home in Burma a lot,” says 14-year old Kohinur who is learning Burmese and English alongside handicrafts at a UNICEF-supported center. “My family owned a two-story farm-house which had some land, livestock and a beautiful balcony.” She had to leave all this behind and rebuild her life in a refugee camp far from home. At the UNICEF center, this is the first time she has received any education and training since her family fled to Bangladesh in 2017. Kohinur says that the center has given her a new purpose in life and is a welcome respite from the daily household chores, which includes cooking rice and collecting water. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, she was attending the center six days a week. She hopes that one day she can become a tailor and earn a living.

Asheka was 16 years old  when she became a youth volunteer in the Rohingya refugee camp in 2018. She has helped save countless lives in her community by visiting homes and simply sharing lifesaving information on better hygiene management for improved health. “I mainly speak with women and girls in my community to inform them about how to care for children and their own health by following best practices of hygiene management at home.” Asheka arrived in Bangladesh in September 2017 after a grueling journey from Myanmar. In the camps, though it is very tough, she enjoys the challenge of working as a youth volunteer, " I feel very happy that I'm able to do something for my community that I didn't know I could do before coming to UNICEF’s information and feedback center and receiving training on sharing correct messages."

“When I managed to cross the border and reached Bangladesh from Myanmar, all I wanted was to have a drop of clean water,” says Sanjida, a young Rohingya refugee mother of a six-month-old baby girl. “Throughout our journey to reach Bangladesh, we suffered so much, we were  running to save our lives, but we did not have access to drinkable water. We were thirsty and falling sick.” Sanjida now lives in a densely populated Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. “My concerns are always about my daughter. The living conditions in the camp are very harsh but I must ensure that my child is safe and healthy. One thing that makes a big difference to maintaining the health of my child is the safe water taps that are installed near our home. This is lifesaving!”

UNICEF is mobilizing its resources to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on Rohingya people like Kohinur, Sanjida and Asheka. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new threat to these overcrowded conditions. Many refugees live in flimsy bamboo and tarpaulin shelters where the dangers of everyday life remain all too real, including the high risk of the spread of infectious diseases like the coronavirus. With your partnership, UNICEF is disseminating lifesaving messages; scaling up handwashing points and hygiene promotion; adopting infection and control measures at all service points; and adopting alternative modalities including home-based caregiver-led learning and one-on-one psychosocial support.

UNICEF will continue to ensure that all Rohingya children are supported with the holistic care needed to return them to a sense of normalcy and ensure that they can thrive.

On behalf of Rohingya children, thank you.

Kohinur, 14, who is learning Burmese and English
Kohinur, 14, who is learning Burmese and English
Sanjida, a young Rohingya refugee mother
Sanjida, a young Rohingya refugee mother
Jan 13, 2021

Update: Increasing Access to Education in Syria

Maram, 12, studies at her home in Syria.
Maram, 12, studies at her home in Syria.

Dear Friend,

In 2021, the scale, severity and complexity of humanitarian needs in the Syrian Arab Republic remain extensive. Over 11 million people, including nearly 5 million children, require assistance and more than 6.1 million people are internally displaced. Enduring hostilities are causing continued displacement, and the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are significantly impacting children’s and families’ access to basic services such as food items and safe water.

The year 2020 was marked by intersecting humanitarian crises. In October, internal displacements due to large scale wildfires across the coastal regions in Syria, which burned more than 74,000 acres of agricultural and forested land across NW Syria, left at least 25,000 people displaced. The wildfires have caused an additional 140,000 people to suffer multiple deprivations due to household damage, loss of power, and reduced access to safe water supplies.

As the eleventh year of the Syrian crisis draws near, the adverse effects of a decade-long conflict are evident. Grave violations against children’s rights continue unabated, 2.5 million children aged 5 to 17 years old are out of school, and an additional 1.6 million children are at risk of dropping out. An already overstretched and under-resourced education system in Syria is under immense pressure in efforts to provide learning opportunities to the most vulnerable children. Since the onset of the conflict, the number of out-of-school Syrian children and youth has increased from 0.9 million in the 2011-12 school year to 2.1 million in the 2017-18 school year.

To address the ongoing challenges facing out-of-school children in Syria, UNICEF continues to deliver educational services and materials, psychosocial support, recreational activities and improved learning environments to children who have limited or no access to school. Since the beginning of the program in 2018, 356,619 newly enrolled out-of-school children have been reached through the Self-Learning Program and Curriculum B. With your generous support, UNICEF and partners were able to achieve the following results for children in the second half of 2020:

  • 14,291 out-of-school children (7,118 girls and 7,173 boys) received self-learning materials;
  • 15,613 out-of-school children (7,707 girls and 7,906 boys) enrolled in SLP benefited from stationery and school-in-a box distribution;
  • 15,851 out-of-school children (8,061 girls and 7,790 boys) enrolled in the Self-Learning Program continued to benefit from recreation kits distributed in the first half of 2020;
  • 15,315 out-of-school children (7,790 girls and 7,525 boys)were provided with psychosocial support;
  • 151 educators (105 females, 46 males)were trained on Self-Learning Program Standard Operating Procedures and active learning;
  • 52 workshops, benefitting 2,538 school staff, were conducted to teach school staff how to ensure sanitation and hygiene measures were implemented correctly

With the crisis in Syria now approaching the eleven-year mark, education remains central to UNICEF’s humanitarian response. Education serves not only as a critical protection mechanism, but also as one of the most important resilience-building measures for conflict-affected children and adolescents, regardless of their age, geographic location or socioeconomic status. UNICEF will continue to ensure that all children affected by the crisis in Syria continue their education and access the learning opportunities required to grow into tomorrow’s leaders.

On behalf of the thousands of out-of-school children who are benefitting from your support in Syria, we thank you.

Jan 12, 2021

Update: Supporting Child Migrants and Refugees


Dear Friend, 

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a critical threat to children on the move. Across the globe, the lives of children and their families have been turned upside down by the rapid spread of coronavirus. In just a few short months, whole countries have found themselves largely confined to their homes in a bid to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and potentially lethal COVID-19. But millions of displaced children across the world are denied such basic protections –a home to isolate in, the chance to stay physically distant, or even just the facilities to wash their hands with soap and water. Many live in cramped conditions with limited access to safe water and clean toilets; others are in immigration detention or “left behind,” live with disabilities; are unaccompanied or separated from their families; and lots will struggle to access accurate information in a language they understand.

Displaced children – refugees, migrants or those internally displaced –are already amongst the most world’s most vulnerable, driven from their homes and all they knew and held dear by conflict, disaster, drought, lack of food or grinding poverty. Millions of children and their families live in overcrowded camps, settlements and urban slums where even basic water and sanitation facilities are absent. Access to free or affordable healthcare and other essential services is limited or unavailable, and many families rely on precarious daily wages and informal work to survive. Too often cut off from education, displaced children and their families are often already the hardest to reach with accurate and child-friendly information in a language they understand –and without the protection of school, children and women face increased risk of exploitation, abuse and early marriage. Tragically, misinformation on COVID-19 can exacerbate the xenophobia and discrimination that migrant and displaced children and their families already face. If the virus takes hold in those communities least able to protect themselves, as seems imminent, the impacts on vulnerable children and their families will devastating, both now and in the longer term.

Today, there are 31 million children who have been uprooted from their homes, including over 17 million internally displaced, 12.7 million refugees and 1.1 million asylum seekers. All of them need some form of assistance. Most of them do not have the luxury of calling a doctor when sick, of washing their hands whenever they need to, or of practicing physical distancing to stop disease transmission.

UNICEF is working with partners to prevent the spread of the disease among refugee, migrant and displaced populations. This includes promoting hygiene practices that help prevent transmission in shelters, camps and other accommodation sites. It includes developing accurate, child friendly information on COVID-19 and materials to fight stigma and promote positive parenting. It also includes distributing hygiene supplies and providing access to water.

In Italy, UNICEF is working to reach young migrants and refugees. Those outside formal systems remain particularly vulnerable with limited access to health care, health information and support services. UNICEF is supporting outreach teams who provide vital health screenings, distribute hygiene supplies and share information to vulnerable children and families living in informal settlements. UNICEF is also reaching young refugees and migrants with vital health information through U-Report on the Move and Facebook Live sessions. UNICEF has procured critical supplies including personal protection equipment and hygiene kits for health staff and social workers. In addition, UNICEF has supported remote counselling and psychological support for refugees and migrants, over the phone or online. This support extends to guardians and foster care families who need support and stress management.

In Mexico, UNICEF is working to address the specific needs of at least 251,000 people in border areas, routes and transit points, in communities of origin and return, and at final destinations. UNICEF is working so that the most vulnerable children, families and communities are protected from exposure to and the impacts of COVID-19. UNICEF is working to ensure migrant children’s safe return to school; nutritional support during an increasingly vulnerable time; and the provision of sanitation and hygiene services and supplies. UNICEF is also working to provide psychosocial support to support the mental wellbeing of migrant children who have been through harrowing journeys.

In Kenya, UNICEF is working to ensure refugee children continue their education. Many children are at high risk of dropping out of school due to COVID-19 and the sudden school closures, not returning once their school re-opens. UNICEF is committed to helping refugee children continue their education. UNICEF has worked to connect these children with radios so they can complete radio classes while social distancing and remaining safe. UNICEF has also worked to contain the spread of COVID-19 in crowded camps and to ensure refugee populations have the right information when it comes to public health.

UNICEF works around the world to help protect the rights of migrant and displaced children. UNICEF is providing life-saving humanitarian supplies in refugee camps. UNICEF is running child-friendly spaces – safe places where children on the move can play, where mothers can rest and feed their babies in private, where separated families can reunite. In addition, UNICEF supports national and local governments to put in place laws, policies, systems and services that are inclusive of all children and address the specific needs of migrant and displaced children, helping them thrive. And at this critical moment, UNICEF is working to protect refugee and migrant children from the global pandemic and its socioeconomic impacts.

Thanks to your support, this important work to ensure every refugee and migrant child’s fair chance in life can continue.

On behalf of every child, thank you.

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