Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

by Concern Worldwide US
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Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Assist Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
Nutrition Treatment Center in Cox's Bazar
Nutrition Treatment Center in Cox's Bazar

The world is currently dealing with the largest refugee population on record, with more than 25 million people uprooted from their homes and living abroad in host communities. Of this 25 million, 11 million are children. This number has doubled over the last 10 years. 

Over half of the 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar for safety in Bangladesh are children. While refugees of all ages face risks, children experience a unique set of challenges. Here are five:

  1. Limited Access to Quality Education: A quality education is essential to building a life free from poverty, but it is often out of reach in refugee emergencies. According to UNICEF, refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children, due to safety, language barriers, and financial issues. The emotional toll of conflict and displacement leaves many children not ready for a formal classroom while others are pulled from school to help their families make ends meet.
  2. Compromised Mental Health: The root causes of forced migration are traumatizing, whether they be conflict, persecution, or extreme weather. These events hit children especially hard, as they are still developing and lack the same tools that adults have to navigate trauma. Exposure to violence, fear, and uncertainty can have lifelong emotional and social impacts. This is in addition to the lasting physical effects, such as stunting, that refugee children often experience from food scarcity and illness.
  3. Separation from Families: While refugee children in general are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, they are at more than double the risk when unaccompanied. Young girls in particular are targets for gender-based violence and trafficking.
  4. Shifting Family Dynamic and Responsibilities: When refugees find a place to settle, whether temporarily or permanently, they often face overcrowded housing conditions, a shortage of resources, and radically different financial circumstances. These changes can lead to a dysfunctional familial shift – older children are tasked with caring for younger family members, while parents seek work or wait to join them, without the experience or resources they need to keep themselves and others fed and healthy.
  5. Isolation in Host Community: Discrimination is not only something that drives refugees from their homelands, it is also something they often face upon arriving somewhere new. Xenophobia plays a big role in isolating asylum seekers and preventing them from rebuilding a life. Children are often left out of data collecting, leaving their needs unheard when it comes to setting policies or offering social services.

What Concern is Doing to Help Rohingya Refugee Children

Children are at the center of all areas of Concern’s work. We’ve been supporting children at the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, by focusing on maternal and child health and helping expecting and new mothers in the Rohingya refugee community get the care they need and learn how to care for their newborns.

We’ve also made sure that refugee children are fed and nourished. In 2018 alone, we held monthly nutrition screenings for nearly 50,000 Rohingya children, admitting over 6,100 children to outpatient clinics where we supported them with a combination of community care and therapeutic food, and seeing a cure rate of 97%.

Bangladesh’s rainy seasons, growing in length and severity due to climate change, can also foster waterborne illnesses in crowded camps — posing a particular risk to children with less developed immune systems. Maintaining access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygienic supplies remains an ongoing priority for Concern in Cox’s Bazar, especially since COVID-19 hit the camps this time last year.

Our work supporting Rohingya refugee children would not be possible without the support of people like you. Thank you for joining us in our mission to create lasting change for the world’s most vulnerable people.

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Photo: Abir Abdullah/ Concern Worldwide
Photo: Abir Abdullah/ Concern Worldwide

It’s been three years since the Rohingya people fled violence and persecution in Rakhine State in Myanmar. Nearly a million refugees now reside in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, forming the world’s largest refugee camp. Without an end in sight to this situation, here are 5 things to know about the Rohingya crisis as it currently stands at the end of 2020.


The Rohingya are a predominantly minority ethnic group, many of whom have lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine State for generations. Without recognition as citizens or permanent residents of the country, the Rohingya have long had limited access to education, jobs, and health services, resulting in chronic poverty and marginalization. Violence targeting the Rohingya in Myanmar over the last several decades has driven hundreds of thousands to neighboring countries, most notably in 1978, 1991-92, and 2016. An escalation in violence in 2017 became the starting point for the latest — and largest — crisis. 


The mass exodus of Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh has developed into a protracted emergency for both refugees and host communities. Most of the camps were built on uneven sandy hills that were rapidly cleared to make way for refugees and services. Over the last three years, these informal settlements have faced the constant threats of flooding, landslides, and shelter collapse.

The main cyclone season begins in April, and previous years have shown us that this the in which the Rohingya are most vulnerable. Beyond shelters facing destruction from high winds, these rainy seasons can also foster waterborne illnesses in crowded camps that don’t have proper water and sanitation facilities — posing a particular risk to children and the elderly.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic reached the camps in the summer of 2020. Quarantines and lockdowns in Bangladesh have made it harder for essential supplies, including food and medical items, to make it into the camps.


Concern is one the many non-governmental organizations — both local and international — responding to the influx of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Because we have been in Bangladesh for over 40 years, with both former staff and experience in the Cox’s Bazar area, we were one of the first organizations to respond to the crisis there. 

Since then, we’ve maintained a combination of life-saving integrated nutrition support, livelihood development, disaster risk reduction, non-food item distributions, and home gardening initiatives. Our goal, along with many of our partners and humanitarian colleagues, is to help the Rohingya stay healthy, care for their families, and live with as much security and dignity as possible.


Often underreported in coverage of any refugee crisis is the host community’s efforts to maintain their own welfare. The area surrounding Cox’s Bazar is a very poor area of Bangladesh with a history of weak service provision. Concern’s Country Director in Bangladesh, A.K.M. Musha, points out that local lives have changed significantly since this massive population flow. 

“There is huge socio-economic and environmental pressure resulting in increased tension between refugees and the host community,” he says. “The tensions will continue to increase unless the host communities are supported well. It’s a difficult situation for all.”

While the Bangladeshi government has gone to great lengths to accommodate the influx, the impact is being felt as local resources go into the relief effort, prices of goods and services rise, and labor becomes cheaper.


“The Rohingya people don’t believe the situation in Myanmar is currently conducive to repatriation. It would be very difficult for people to go back to Myanmar unless the situation improves there,” adds Musha.

Despite all this, Concern’s Emergency Director in Bangladesh, Heather Macey says thatthemood among the Rohingya communityis one of resilience and defiance.

“They are people before they are refugees. You have doctors and musicians and artists living in these camps. You can’t forget that. The people have gone through and survivedso much,”she explained.

“They are the drivers of their own change…The people are not hopeless.”

Thank you for your support of Concern’s work with both refugees and their host communities to realize this change for a brighter future, together.

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Handwashing in Cox's Bazar
Handwashing in Cox's Bazar

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached the Rohingya camps of Bangladesh, where more than 900,000 refugees, including nearly 500,000 children, live on a site spanning less than 10 square miles. With a population-density far higher than Manhattan, physical distancing and self-isolation is almost impossible to put into practice and there is a huge risk that COVID-19 will spread rapidly through the community.

To compound the problem, over 10% of Rohingya refugee households have at least one individual above the age of five with a disability or chronic illness. Cholera, chicken pox, and diphtheria have previously broken out in the camp and there is high number of existing respiratory infections — 174,000 since January 2020 — leaving those affected extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

Concern is doing everything it can to continue operation while also respecting government-mandated restrictions. Double rations — enough to last an extra month — were distributed in advance of the shutdown and food stocks have been pre-positioned for distribution by Concern’s volunteer network within the camp to stave off the chronic threat of malnutrition.

The Concern team has also been working to make sure that those living in the camps have the facts about how the virus is spread and its effects, using nearly 250 trained Rohingya volunteers to counter dangerous misinformation.

A Concern-led consortium, designed to improved essential healthcare for disadvantaged communities, has moved quickly to create a simple and effective screening solution: an all-in-one mobile diagnosis and sample collection service.

Patients arriving at the mobile center receive free masks and hand sanitizer and are directed to a booth for consultation with a doctor via video call. If the patient is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms, they are registered and referred to the sample collection booth. Trained staff then take a swab for laboratory testing. Currently the screening capacity is 150 samples per day and patients receive results within 48 hours. The service is provided free of charge.

Hasina Rahman, Concern’s acting Country Director in Bangladesh, says that this could be a very effective way to ramp up COVID screening across the country, especially in rural areas. “We are glad that we have been able to step up during this unprecedented crisis to support the government.” Given the population size and some of the access challenges, the task is enormous and the stakes are high.

Your support has helped Concern play a critical role in stemming the spread of COVID-19 among this particular vulnerable population. Thank you.

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"Arshia and Baby Aklima." Darren Vaughan (Concern)
"Arshia and Baby Aklima." Darren Vaughan (Concern)

For this report, I’d like to share another story from one of people at the heart of Concern’s Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh. Reported by Concern’s Tony Cuddihy, the following story captures the incredible impact your support is having on these vulnerable families:

In Bangladesh, Concern is working closely with the Rohingya people within the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Mum-of-two Arshia is one of more than one million who have crossed the border from neighbouring Myanmar since August 2017, and knows first-hand the impact our team of nutrition experts can have when it comes to improving quality of life.

Seven months pregnant when she was forced to leave her village and journey by foot for almost two days, Arshia spent an entire month on the banks of a river without regular access to food before swimming over to Bangladesh.

“I was pregnant at the time. I had a plastic water container to keep me afloat,” she says.

When our outreach team visited the family’s two-room shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Arshia’s daughter Aklima – by now seven-months-old – was severely malnourished.

“The family were very worried about Aklima,” says 30-year-old Arshia. “She was very ill and was taken to hospital. She had a severe fever and wasn’t able to eat at the time. I was concerned for her health.”

Arshia and her family now receive rations of 30 kilos of rice, 15 kilos of lentils and 3 litres of oil and little Aklima’s health is improving. Having only weighed seven and a half pounds, she is now gaining weight and is well on the road to recovery.

As part of our emergency response to the Rohingya crisis, we are delivering life-saving nutrition services to young children under the age of five.

Concern volunteers - comprised largely of people from the Rohingya community - conduct house-to-house visits over difficult geographical terrain in eight camps in Cox's Bazar to screen children for malnourishment. The cure rate for treatment of children under the age of five with severe malnutrition at Concern's Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes (OTPs) is 97% on average.

We sincerely appreciate your generous support, which is what makes all this possible. Thank you.

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Amir in Bangladesh. Photo: Sabrina Idriss (2019).
Amir in Bangladesh. Photo: Sabrina Idriss (2019).

Dear Generous Supporter,

For this months's update, I'd like to share with you a story about a Rohingya refugee, one of the tens of thousands supported by Concern in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. But this refugee is special because he went from being a recipient of humanitarian assistance to a full-fledged humanitarian himself.

The story below was written by Concern's Clare Ahern and is evidence of the incredible impact your support has, but also of how Concern's staff of nearly 4,000 humanitarians worldwide all have their own inspiring stories.


At home in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Amir* never imagined he would one day become a refugee. In mid-2017, his wife had just given birth to their first child, a little baby boy. Life was relatively good and they were discovering the joy of parenthood. However, that joy was to be short-lived. In August of that year, as part of a major escalation of racial tensions, their village was attacked and they were forced to flee.

Amir’s mother, wife, and son managed to make it to a boat making towards Bangladesh. He and his father became separated and were taken captive, but managed to escape separately. Amir was badly injured. “They stabbed me in my back and my leg to ensure I could not leave.”

Amir and a group of his fellow captives eventually found a way to escape from where they were being detained. Heroically, they risked their lives to rescue others before they fled. “We knew that they were not going to spare a single female, no matter what age she was,” he says. “So we tried to get the females out first. No matter if it cost our lives.”

Tragically, Amir would learn that the boat carrying the rest of his family capsized. In agonizing pain from his stab wounds and close to unconsciousness, he searched for two days but never found them.


In October 2017 Amir reached at Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and was admitted to a hospital to be treated for his wounds. Slowly he began to rebuild his life. He now works as a volunteer in one of Concern’s nutrition centers, which provide recovery support for young children who are severely malnourished.

Visiting households, he screens children and refers those who show symptoms to the nutrition centers.

He says, “I never imagined I could stand back up — I was traumatized from the death of my family. I feel much better now. I like working with the children.”

Amir has since re-married and he and his wife now have a young baby boy. Together, they live alongside his grandmother, father, and younger sister and he finds joy both in his work and spending time with his family. “I lost my own child and then gained another, but I also watch over so many in the camp.”

*Name has been changed for security reasons.

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Concern Worldwide US

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @concern
Project Leader:
Conner Purcell
New York, NY United States
$26,701 raised of $30,000 goal
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