The 25th August 2018 marks one year since the start of the fastest growing refugee crisis in modern history. Causing suffering on a catastrophic scale, escalating violence from the Myanmar military forced over 700,000 Rohingya people over the border to Bangladesh.
Children on the Edge are committed to investing in education and stability for the Rohingya children attending their Centres, and in time hope to increase their reach to cater for larger numbers. Recognising the burden on already hard pressed host communities, they are also supporting education for Bangladeshi children in Cox’s Bazar and Rohingya children living in enclave areas outside Chittagong.
Following our initial humanitarian response to the Rohingya refugee situation, and alongside our provision of education for 7,500 children, we have worked in line with Bangladesh Government strategy by contributing to sustainable energy sources in the Kutupalong Balukhali camp.
The hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safety in this country have had little choice but to overburden the surrounding jungles in the Ukhiya hills. The Bangladesh Forestry Department has stated that the weight and rate of the influx has created an environmental crisis in the border district. Stripping away 4,000 acres of dense forest land; miles of tarpaulin and dust as far as the eye can see, has now formed the largest refugee camp in the world.
Ongoing fuel needs for the one million people trapped here vastly escalates this problem each day. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Forestry Officer describes how “An average 1 kg of fuelwood per person is required every day for cooking, which corresponds to 800 tonnes of fuelwood per day for the Rohingya refugees in the camps. This means that forest covering an area roughly the size of five football fields is cut every day for fuelwood”.
Most staple food rations distributed here consist of lentils, beans and rice, which have to be cooked in order to be edible. Almost all families rely on small fires, often used in poorly ventilated spaces, but with prohibitive prices for market firewood, most attempt to gather it from the nearby forest. Children are often sent to collect firewood alone and, with disappearing reserves, trips of up to 12 miles each way can now take the entire day. To attempt to save firewood, some people undercook their food or skip meals.
As part of our discussions with local authorities when planning our Learning Centres in the camp, we agreed to source and distribute 500 gas stoves in the surrounding areas. This has provided around 3,500 people with a sustainable means of cooking and the Centres are being used as bases to provide training to use the stoves.
In addition to this, earlier in the year we provided high quality, portable solar lights to 5,250 homes. The Kutupalong-Balukhali expansion site is vast and remains mostly unlit. This heightens risks for everyone, but especially for girls and women who have often reported feeling unsafe going out after dark.
As well as issues of safety and functionality at night, the lights also help to curb the use of firewood. Mohammed (pictured below) and his family used to build a fire to try and create some light in the evenings, but the wood was too expensive and smoke poured into the shelter. Since he’s been using the light he has said “It’s better for my family. Now we can cook and clean in the evening, it gives light to the whole room”.
We have recently planted shrubs and flowers in the grounds outside each Learning Centre to begin to grow green oasis areas for the children within the barren landscape of the camp. In time we are hoping to grow vegetables in these spaces and raise funds for solar powered fans to cool the atmosphere inside.
Find out more about the Learning Centres and click the buttons below to get involved.
"To be here and to help children is a great success after we have lost everything" - Over 50 Learning Centres open their doors for Rohingya refugee children
Watch this space for more news from the Centres. New classrooms are being built every day and we are progressing well in our aim to provide education for 7,500 children in the camp.
Children on the Edge are focussing on long term provision for Rohingya refugee children in the border camps of Bangladesh.
Described by the UN as ‘a textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, brutal attacks by the Myanmar military in August 2017 forced over 700,000 Rohingya civilians over the border into Bangladesh. The majority of these arrived directly into the areas where we have been providing refugee education since 2011.
After delivering an initial humanitarian response, our main concern over the next few years is that children have consistent support, long after the current surge of attention subsides. Already, many of the agencies that arrived after the crisis hit the headlines, are beginning to withdraw.
Children make up 50% of the Rohingya refugee community here, and an estimated 625,000 children lack access to learning opportunities. New arrivals are living in highly congested areas (around 8m sq/person) and are susceptible to disease and malnutrition.
In addition to the daily stressors of displacement, children have suffered profound trauma and with little access to safe, child friendly facilities, face serious protection risks including abuse, child marriage, trafficking and child labour.
This month, we have begun the construction of 150 classrooms; within 75 new Learning Centres in the Kutupalong camp. Over the last few weeks, 10 Centres have been built and opened to groups of children. Through two shifts a day, children have the opportunity to learn basic language skills, reading, writing and arithmetic.
Rohingya facilitators are being trained in dealing with trauma in children, and how to create a welcoming, safe environment. Each space is a bright, colourful haven, with a focus on art, play and self expression. In time, we will be creating vibrant ‘green spaces’ outside each one through pot gardening, to create an oasis feel within the arid landscape of the camps.
The Centres will also serve as a hub for community learning in areas like First Aid skills and the use of gas stoves. They are semi-permanent structures, to enable durability against the rains (deep concrete floors), whilst maintaining flexibility on location, should the refugee population move on elsewhere.
Watch this space to read more about the progress of these Centres, and consider signing up as a regular donor to provide steady support for this work going forward. You can also read about how we are supporting education for Rohingya children living in enclave communities and slum communities further inland.
The 2018 theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, with the organisers of the movement describing how “While we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day…there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support”.
Bangladesh has recorded one of the largest declines in Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for women since 1997, and with poorer families struggling to support their children, child marriage is prevalent, vastly limiting opportunities for women in the future. Children in the slum communities of Cox’s Bazar struggle to access education, as their families often need them to contribute an income to the household.
The Learning Centres we support here ensure flexible access to education, with equal opportunities for girls. In the next year we will be doubling the number of classes from nine to 18. Most of our teachers are women, and express the difference this role makes in their lives and how it impacts perspectives in the community.
Anika is a teacher at one of the Learning Centres, she says “Because of this role I am increasingly independent, and I don’t have to depend entirely on my husband anymore. Before this time I had no decision or say in how our money was spent and my opinion had no value in the family. Now, I take part in all decisions about preparing festivals, how to spend money, family issues etc. They all seek my opinion”.
Parents are encouraged about the importance of learning versus the problems associated with child marriage. Each Centre also facilitates ‘child councils’ who work to address, among many issues, the problem of child marriage.
Safiya is a member of the child council and says “If I leave the school my grandmother will marry me off, which I don’t like at my early age. I have decided to advocate against early marriage in my slum. If my neighbours don’t hear me I will bring my teacher to explain it to them, early marriage is a risk for health and life”.
Since a brutal campaign of violence from the Myanmar military forced over 650,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, Children on the Edge have been responding to the crisis. Already working in the Kutupalong camp for seven years, we were uniquely placed to offer humanitarian support.
Thanks to the generous support of many donors, we have:
We have also provided 5250 Solar lights - without a source of light for the evening many families have trouble with cooking and other tasks, and travel around the camp is dangerous for women at night. The lighting units are strong, waterproof and portable.
Together these will provide education for 8,400 children a year through 168 classrooms. This work will draw on our experience, providing colourful and innovative schools which stand out for their excellence. If you would like to find out more about education in the camps this year, don't hesitate to get in touch, or lend your support by clicking the buttons below.
We have been working with the Rohingya community in Bangladesh for the last seven years, providing low-profile education for refugee children in an unregistered camp. The Rohingya have experienced persecution, oppression and human rights abuses from the Myanmar army for decades.
Since we have worked with them, we have witnessed surges of violence in 2012 and 2016, with thousands of refugees pouring into the already crowded camps. This year we were delighted that our model of low-profile, community based education here was selected as part of the Promising Practices initiative, which sourced, documented and promoted innovative practices in refugee education.
Soon after this, the horrific news about the latest wave of violence against the Rohingya began to emerge. Since the 25th of August, approximately 700,000 more refugees have fled the worst series of attacks against them to date. Our Asia Regional Manager, John Littleton said “On a human-rights level, this situation is the most appalling we have ever encountered. 2,000-3,000 people have been arriving each day with stories too horrific to print”.
Hundreds of thousands of those refugees have ended up in the unregistered Kutupalong camp where we work, making us well placed to respond to the crisis. We have begun an initial provision of food, solar lighting, clean water and sanitation, whilst doubling up our 45 refugee schools as safe spaces for new arrivals. At this time we were delighted to be chosen by The Times Christmas Appeal as their international charity, with journalists focusing on our work with the Rohingya over December.
Next year we will be building 100 more semi-permanent schools in the camp, based on the effective model of our Learning Centres in Cox’s Bazar. Ben Wilkes, Executive Director at Children on the Edge says “These new centres will draw on our experience, providing colourful and innovative schools which stand out for their excellence. Our main concern is that these children have consistent support, long after the current flurry of attention subsides.”
Read more about our education work with the Rohingya
Children on the Edge have been selected by The Times as one three charities they are raising money for this Christmas. Over the next month, the paper will focus on their work providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh since the 25th August, fleeing a brutal military crackdown from the Myanmar army. Despite decades of attacks and persecution, this is largest wave of violence against them to date, and has been described by the UN as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
Children on the Edge Asia Regional Manager, John Littleton said “On a human-rights level, this situation is the most appalling we have ever encountered. 2,000-3,000 people have been arriving each day with stories too horrific to print”.
Esther Smitheram, Communications & Advocacy Manager at Children on the Edge said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by The Times to feature in their 2017 Christmas Appeal. This is a huge opportunity for a small, local charity like us to showcase our globally recognised approach. We hope that The Times Christmas Appeal will help to raise funds to ensure we can continue to respond the current humanitarian crisis and support this new wave of refugees in the longer term".
Refugees have fled to camps along the border of Myanmar, most of which were already at capacity. Around 60% of those refugees arriving in Bangladesh are women and children, subject to appalling conditions and at risk of hunger, trafficking and disease.
One recent arrival is Mohammed, who was shot in the leg as he fled the military, carrying his two children. He told the charity “It is taking people 12-18 days of travel to reach the border, through thick jungle, as all other routes are being watched by the military. When we arrived, there were around 2,400 of us kept in a holding area, we received a small amount of water and a packet of biscuits to last us two days”.
Children on the Edge have been providing education to some of the most forgotten Rohingya refugee children in the unregistered Kutupalong camp for the last seven years. This makes them well positioned to provide humanitarian support, through local partners, to those whose needs are the greatest.
Ben Wilkes, Executive Director at Children on the Edge has returned this week from visiting the camps in Bangladesh. He says: “The largest challenge facing the camp is the sheer scale of them. Kutupalong camp now claims the sad title of the world’s largest refugee camp. With many agencies rushing to provide aid, much work has been poorly implemented and is now causing further problems. We will be avoiding these pitfalls by ensuring we do thorough research and work with quality providers. We are currently working with local partners to provide thousands of families with clean water and sanitation, food parcels and solar lighting.”.
In addition to the provision of aid, Children on the Edge are utilising their 45 refugee schools to create safe spaces for newly arrived refugee children. They plan to provide consistent support, long after the current flurry of attention subsides, by establishing another 100 semi-permanent schools in the camp over the next year.
This work will be featured in the Times throughout December and into the start of the New Year, donations from readers will be split between Children on the Edge, Alzheimer’s Society and the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust.
You can donate online at thetimes.co.uk/timesappeal or call 0151 284 2336
We support nine Learning Centres in the slum areas of Cox’s Bazar, ensuring that working children who cannot attend mainstream school can access flexible education and have a chance to rest and play with their friends.