Ad­vo­cate says Ro­hingya kids need men­tal health sup­port

More and more un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors ar­riv­ing to Bangladesh

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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.

Zakir Hos­sain Chowd­hury/the as­so­ci­ated Press

Ro­hingya chil­dren stand in a queue to re­ceive food hand­outs at Thangkhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

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