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Press Release

IRC warns half a million Rohingya refugee children exposed to extreme trauma, in urgent need of education and protection

  • 450,000 Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh, including 250,000 new arrivals, are in need of urgent assistance 
  • IRC is deploying an education expert to assess education needs and plan accordingly 
  • Education in emergencies remains woefully underfunded in Rohingya response 
  • Total number of refugees could top one million – the largest exodus since Rwanda 

As the humanitarian scale of the Rohingya crisis continues to grow, the International Rescue Committee estimates that almost half a million children are in urgent need of assistance. With up to 300,000 more Rohingya expected to flee for Cox’s Bazaar in coming weeks, the total number of refugees could top 1 million – the fastest mass exodus the IRC has seen since Rwanda – only exacerbating humanitarian concerns especially for the most vulnerable. 

While life-saving interventions such as access to health services, food and protection need to continue to be a priority, education and child protection services must not be overlooked. The trauma experienced by Rohingya children is horrific, and the IRC warns that unless interventions are put in place immediately to specifically address their needs – including safe spaces to heal and learn – they face becoming a lost generation. To this effect, the IRC is advocating for including education in emergencies as a key component to the Rohingya response and is deploying an education expert to assess need. 

There is strong scientific evidence that shows children who experience displacement, violence, and other trauma inherent to crisis settings are at risk of “toxic stress”, a response that inhibits their brain development, impacting their physical and mental health. There is also evidence that shows if given a safe, stable and supportive learning and home environment, children will be resilient. Despite this evidence, education has repeatedly received less than 2% of all humanitarian funding – and remains among the least funded areas in the Rohingya response. An IRC assessment revealed that 90% of families in Cox’s Bazaar would send their children to school if the opportunity were available. 

“Education is not a luxury; it is a human right and a lifeline for children affected by crisis, and must be included in every humanitarian response”, said Sarah Smith, the IRC’s senior director for education. “From Syria to Nigeria, the IRC has seen the life-changing and life-saving impact of education. The Rohingya crisis is no different – and the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of children depend on it.”

In Cox’s Bazar, the IRC is launching an emergency response focusing on life-saving health assistance, the treatment of severe acute malnutrition and child protection – including safe healing and learning spaces- in collaboration with national and international partners. 

In Myanmar, the IRC is gradually resuming critical health and protection programmes in both Muslim camps and Rakhine villages, but humanitarian access remains restricted for humanitarian groups and thousands remain out of reach of life-saving aid, especially in northern Rakhine state.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.