By Azad Majumder
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Aug 31 (EFE).- Hundreds of orphaned or unaccompanied Rohingya children have been growing up with an uncertain future in refugee camps in Bangladesh since 2017, when they fled a brutal wave of persecution by the Myanmar Army.
Ayesha Bibi has been living in a Bangladesh refugee camp with her maternal uncle since 2017, when she crossed the border to escape the Myanmar army’s crackdown in Rakhine state in the country’s western coast.
Bibi’s mother died when she was young and there was no news of her father, Mohammad Jamal, since the crackdown.
Bibi, now 11, said she often feels sad when she thinks of her father, whom she could recall faintly.
“We took her with us as we did not find any information about her father,” Bibi’s uncle Mohammad Ibrahim told EFE in Kutupalang Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh.
“She is registered here as a member of our family. My mother and two other brothers take care of her like our own child,” said Ibrahim, 24, who recently married and started his own family in the camp.
“As long as we are alive, we will not allow her to face any problems,” he said.
There was no similar assurance for another Rohingya girl, Hishma, aged eight, who was being raised by Rohingya community leader Hosen Jahur in a neighboring camp.
Hishma’s father, Nurul Amin, died in a Myanmar jail, and her mother died three months after crossing over to Bangladesh.
“I cannot remember the faces of my parents. I also don’t know what happened to them,” Hishma said as she came to study Quran in an Islamic school inside the Rohingya camp.
Jahur said her mother requested her to take care of the baby when she fell sick in the camp in Bangladesh.
“I am trying to give her as much care as possible,” he said, adding that his mother, who lives separately, was also raising two orphaned Rohingya boys, Nur Bashar and Haulat Hossain.
Bibi, Hishma, Nur and Haulat are among hundreds of orphaned or unaccompanied Rohingya children who are growing up in Bangladesh camps under the care of their relatives and neighbors, but with an uncertain future.
Many of them lost either both or at least one parent when they came to Bangladesh in 2017, when the military crackdown forced nearly 726,000 Rohingyas to flee and take refuge in the neighboring country.
Some of these children had disabilities, according to Rohingyas living in the crowded Bangladesh camp.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said the agency and its partners have continued to work in the last five years to identify separated and unaccompanied children and reunify them with their families.
Between January and June 2022, UNHCR and its partners reunited approximately 500 children with their caregivers, according to the UNHCR spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar, Regina De La Portilla.
“Volunteers provide psycho-social support for children and caregivers, and positive parenting sessions are also provided for caregivers, including foster caregivers,” she said.
“In addition, caseworkers are trained on UNHCR’s Best Interests Procedure, which informs recommendations and decision-making for children at risk, including relating to alternative care,” added Regina.