Advocate says Rohingya kids need mental health support
More and more unaccompanied minors arriving to Bangladesh
World Vision is sounding an alarm over the extreme mental health issues affecting children among Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.
“Think about it: You have over 800,000 refugees in a very small area, over half a million arriving in the last few weeks. It’s a very desperate situation,” said Fred Witteveen, a Toronto resident and national director of World Vision in Bangladesh.
There’s particularly a high percentage of women and children among the new wave of refugees, he said. World Vision has recently registered more than 1,600 unaccompanied children who arrived with nothing and are now living in crowded and poor conditions.
“They may have seen their parents die, they’re alone, they’re severely traumatized. And now there is a real fear and risk of child trafficking,” Witteveen added.
The United Nations expressed concerns over the fate of Rohingya women and children last week, saying many of them have been subjected to sexual assault and displacement. The violations may amount to “crimes against humanity,” the UN added.
Global Affairs Canada announced an additional $3 million in aid on Wednesday, bringing its total contribution towards the Myanmar crisis to $12 million. International Development Minister Marieclaude Bibeau said the new funding will go specifically to providing support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Witteveen said the funding may not be sufficient but is a step in the right direction.
While humanitarian intervention must help with immediate needs such as nutrition, housing and safety, efforts to heal the psychological wounds must also be scaled up, he said.
“If the mental health pain for these children is not dealt with as soon as possible, it will have a significant impact on their growth and development,” he noted.
Rohingya children stand in a queue to receive food handouts at Thangkhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.