Across the world, over 65 million people have been forced from their homes as a result of war, persecution and poverty. This crisis dominates our media, but whilst much of the discussion is around the problems of migration in Europe, the vast majority of refugees flee to neighbouring countries.
The Refugee Council describes how “It’s poor countries, not rich, western countries, who look after the vast majority of the world’s refugees” and state how The UN’s Refugee Agency have estimated that nearly nine in ten of the world’s refugees are sheltered by developing countries.
Children on the Edge exists to help those children who are the most vulnerable; those living on the edge of their societies and forgotten by the media and international community. This is why we invest our support for those refugees that are trapped in border camps, often unregistered and denied even the most basic services. Below are a few examples of the refugee groups we work with and some detail about why supporting them is crucial.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
Described by the UN as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities”, the Rohingya people from Rakhine state, Burma have faced generations of horrific anti-Muslim violence and abuse from the Burma authorities. As a result, over the years, and with an additional surge of violence last October, according to the Bangladesh government, there are now an estimated 300,000 - 500,000 Rohingya people dwelling in Bangladesh.
With official UN camps in Bangladesh at capacity, thousands are denied official refugee status. They are forced to settle in makeshift border camps, and any provision for unregistered refugees is prohibited by the Bangladesh authorities.
On the request of the Rohingya community in one of these makeshift camps, we have provided education for 2,700 Rohingya refugee children through a low-profile approach. 45 small classrooms, dispersed throughout the camp, with basic learning materials have been built out of mud either within or alongside existing dwellings. Rohingya teachers have been trained from within the camps and the children learn with a child-friendly curriculum, that focusses on creativity and fostering self worth.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon
The years of conflict in Syria have created one of the most devastating humanitarian disasters of this generation. As the crisis enters its sixth year, the United Nations has reported that 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. There are 4.8 million refugees and over 6.6 million have been internally displaced.
Much of the media attention regarding Syrian refugees is focussed on their migration to Europe, but the vast majority of people seeking refuge remain in border countries. Over 1.5 million have ended up in Lebanon which, with a population of just 4 million themselves, have the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world. The most vulnerable do not have the capacity to travel further than the borders, and the refugee community we have spoken with here have only expressed a desire to return home.
The Lebanese government have been been struggling to accommodate this flood of new arrivals. Despite a national and international focus on providing education for refugees, the Ministry of Education’s ‘Back to School’ programme has a number of problems, resulting in insurmountable barriers for many refugee children in the Bekaa Valley settlements where we work.
Consequently, through a number of informal tent schools, we are providing education for 500 Syrian refugee children. Syrian refugees are trained as teachers, using a child friendly Montessori curriculum that is taught in the Syrian dialect.
Internally displaced Kachin people in Burma
Since June 2011 the central government in Burma has been in open conflict with the Kachin Independence Army following a failure in peace talks to resolve their longstanding conflict. While this conflict dates back decades, the past six years have seen consistent fighting, displacing more than 120,000 people across Northern Burma.
In 2012 we heard first-hand accounts of those fleeing the conflict, who spoke of brutal violence, ongoing atrocities and severe violations of human rights including the wide-spread burning of villages, rape, maiming and executions.
Now the government appears determined to crush this last remaining pocket of wide-spread armed resistance in Burma and their tactics have been increasingly harsh. In October, with significant natural resources and political influence at stake, they began to use jets, helicopters and shelling to attack civilians in the camps where we work, forcing them to flee yet again.
We have been working for a number of years in high-altitude, internally displaced people's (IDP) camps, providing education for 629 displaced Kachin children, in 14 Early Childhood Development Centres. We are the only international organisation providing ongoing support for young children in these remote camps. The Centres are safe spaces which provide children with vital opportunities to learn, play and get the support they need, so that they are able to grow and develop, in spite of the daily realities of war.
Children on the Edge go where the need is greatest. Our programmes give refugee children like these a safe environment where they are protected and ensure that their rights are realised. Click the buttons below to receive updates about these projects or donate to this vital work. Thank you.