Improved Security in Myanmar Essential for Rohingya Children Back Home: UNICEF
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Improved security and unimpeded humanitarian access in Myanmar are essential for Rohingya children to be sent back from Bangladesh, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth said Wednesday.
"Some 58 percent of the refugees are children, many of whom are still traumatized by their experiences of violence," said Forsyth at a refugee camp in southern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, some 292 km southeast of capital Dhaka.
"It is critical that their rights and needs in terms of protection and aid are front and centre in any agreement to return families to Myanmar. Return of refugees to Myanmar must be voluntary, safe and dignified," Forsyth said in a statement of the UNICEF, Xinhua news agency reported.
According to the statement, the vast Kutupalong camp shelters many of the 688,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled across the border from Myanmar's Rakhine state following an outbreak of violence there in late August last year.
More than half of the refugees are children, it said.
"In just the last few days we have heard reports of fires and shooting in villages across the border. Until the safety and wellbeing of any child returning to Myanmar can be guaranteed, talk of repatriation is premature," he added.
"The Bangladesh authorities deserve enormous credit for all they have done to help these desperate people. Under their leadership, the worst potential consequences of this human calamity have been avoided despite the incredibly difficult circumstances."
However, Forsyth pointed out that with the rainy season approaching, there were still huge challenges ahead.
"Conditions in the camps here are undoubtedly harsh -- the overcrowding, the shortages of clean water, sanitation, health care and education all carry a particular risk for children."
UNICEF said nearly 220,000 children are currently deprived of education.
"The longer these children remain without the chance to learn, the greater the risk that they will miss out on the chance to build a future for themselves and their families," Forsyth said.