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Citizens for Justice and Peace

Rohingya children confronted with potential “massive mental health crisis”

04, Jan 2018 | CJP Team

The New York Times, in a report that featured first-person accounts and photographs from Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, painted a picture of the dismal future of Rohingya children. The Times reported that of the more than 655,000 Rohingya who have escaped to Bangladesh from Myanmar, 380,000, or nearly 60%, are minors, according to Save the Children. At least 30% of the Rohingya refugees are below the age of 5. Lalou Rostrup Holdt, a mental health adviser for Save the Children, told the Times that “What we’re seeing is the perfect breeding ground for a massive mental health crisis for children”. Holdt went on to describe the children’s suffering, saying, “You have trauma on a huge scale, children seeing brutal killings and being forced to leave home with nothing,” adding, “You have hunger. You also have significant developmental delays due to malnutrition and understimulation that predate the recent trauma. It’s absolutely devastating for an entire community.” Holdt, who has been working at the refugee camps in Bangladesh for two months, told the Times that numerous children are almost constantly in a state of ‘fight or flight’ arousal, which could alter their brains’ architecture. Benjamin Steinlechner, a spokesman for the United Nations’ children’s fund (UNICEF) told the times that the Rohingya crisis is on a much greater scale “than what we’ve seen in other places. We have no idea how all these children are going to process this trauma.” He also noted that “Children and adolescents are super vulnerable to being trafficked, whether for sexual exploitation or for household work,” adding, “Right now we are still busy delivering aid, but we are aware that trafficking is happening under our noses.” Child labor is common, as is child marriage. The Times noted that, according to UN estimates, by the time a teenage girl reaches the refugee camps, she has two to four of her own children.

 

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