June 20, 2018

World Refugee Day: helping children and families who have fled from their homes

Global Youth Ambassador Nehaal Mayur visited APON Child Care Centre for Rohingya refugee children in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Photo credit: Nehaal Mayur

To mark World Refugee Day today, we asked our Global Youth Ambassadors to tell us what they're doing - or have done - for refugees and displaced people.

Nehaal Mayur (India)

As a Global Youth Ambassador and Representative of United Nations Department for Republic Information, Nehaal visited APON Child Care Centre for Rohingya refugee children. 

The centre is based in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, which holds approximately 905,000 refugees - of which half are children. 

Nehaal conducted a needs assessment to measure the impact of quality education at the centre, which helps children with their educational and nutritional needs. You can see some pictures from his work on this page.

Nematullah Ahangosh (Afghanistan)

I met Manizha two years ago when I first started my work as a teacher in Shahrak Police Refugee Camp in Kabul through the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). During the civil war and the Taliban regime, the family migrated from Afghanistan to Iran where Manizha was born.

Years after, the government of Afghanistan announced that Afghans could return because the country was secured then. When Manizha was 11, she and her family returned to Afghanistan hoping that the situation changed. But it never did. At the time she was brilliant and talented.

Manizha was traumatised during their stay in Iran and in Kabul. In Iran, people laughed at her Dari accent and in Kabul people laughed at her Persian accent - yet the language was the same. 

Nehaal Mayur conducted a needs assessment at the child care centre in Bangladesh

Photo credit: Nehaal Mayur

Manizha told me that she was not happy with being teased but she learned one important thing in her life - that language has no border. 

One day she came to me and said that she and her family are going back to Iran. As she was leaving, she asked me not to forget her as my student.

Manizha, your place is empty in my class but you are always in my heart. I hope you and your family are happy and safe wherever you are. I am writing this for Manizha reminding her that she’s never been forgotten and all the other refugees around the world are remembered today and every day.

Modou Njie (The Gambia)

I provide frontline office support for the United Nations Migration Agency in The Gambia. I am the first point of contact for immigrants and internally displaced people, listening to their situations and past experiences to decide what kind of assistance is needed.

I also help in assisting the reintegration team when needed to collect invoices of vendors that have been used to help migrants set up businesses when they are being repatriated. 

These are vulnerable refugees who need assistance and so there is a combination of psychological effects that they come with.

Abdul Latif (Pakistan)

With the launch of a military operation against militants in the troubled North Waziristan agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) by Pakistan in 2014, temporary migration/relocation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the area of operation to safer locations began. 

So far, 423,666 individuals have crossed over from the North Waziristan areas of operation and have been registere,d of which 178,523 are children.

I volunteered in Kohat, KPK Pakistan, where camps were set up for IDPs from North Waziristan, FATA.

Whilst volunteering at the camp, I found a lack of communication, unequal distribution of resources and illiteracy to be the major gaps in helping IDPs. Displaced personnel were so full of fear and terror that they couldn’t even stand up for their basic rights. They were not aware of the basic services and facilities available to them.

Volunteers and organisers were not trained according to the needs and conditions they would be facing as they failed to manage resources adequately. 

Nehaal is a Global Youth Ambassador and Representative of United Nations Department for Republic Information

Photo credit: Nehaal Mayur

Last, but not least, the major constraint I faced was that IDPs from these camps rejected aid funding and grant money. I asked the community why this was the case and the answer I often heard was that this money is coming from the US and they would not take anything which is from there - due to misconceptions about how NGOs work.

Tauseef Rasheq Ahad (Bangladesh)

I come from Bangladesh, one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. For the last 30 years, we have had Rohingya refugees coming from Myanmar, due to racial and religious violence. 

In 2017, the violence became so brutal that the United Nations declared the mass murder, rape and torching villages as "ethnic cleansing". 

There are currently 1.2 million Rohingyas in Teknaf, Bangladesh - they are seeking refuge from us and we, even though not the richest nation, have proudly stood with them in favour of humanity.

I had the privilege of representing Bangladesh and the Commonwealth Youth Council at the Regional NGO Strategic Meeting on the Rohingya Issue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More than 80 NGOs from ASEAN joined forces to take immediate action for well-being of the Rohingya. 

Global Youth Ambassador Tauseef Rasheq Ahad at Regional NGO Strategic Meeting on the Rohingya Issue

Through our strong advocacy and volunteering work, we were able to work with NGOs in Teknaf, Bangladesh, to send food and medicine supplies from across South-East Asia. The Malaysian government was also generous enough to establish a hospital for the Rohingya in Teknaf and they sent 12 tonnes of food and a team of volunteers to support the refugees.

Dr Shafiul Islam (Bangladesh)

The Rohingya ethnic minority from Myanmar are one of the largest stateless groups in the world. Since the 1940s, ongoing persecution, violent military campaigns and gross human rights abuses have caused the exile of over one million Rohingya people. 

Over the years, many have fled across the border to Bangladesh. The total number of Rohingya refugees and locally affected communities in Bangladesh in need of humanitarian assistance has reached 1.2 million. An estimated 58% of the new arrivals are children. 

The nutrition situation is a major concern, with 3% of children suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and an estimated 400,000 Rohingya children in need of psychosocial support and other protection and education services. 

As a physician, researcher and public health professional I am working to find innovative and cost-effective approaches to manage this humanitarian crisis, which is affecting Rohingya children the most.

In addition to the daily stressors of displacement, the children have suffered profound trauma and, with little access to safe, child-friendly facilities, they face serious protection risks including abuse, child marriage, trafficking and child labour. 

Tauseef, right, addresses the meeting on the Rohingya refugees

Without adequate support, children here face the prospect of growing up without an education and without the means to process the horrific events they have lived through. 

About 45 local schools have been handed over to UNICEF, while we begin to break ground on constructing 75 learning centres like semi-permanent structures in the camps. They have employed and trained both Bangladeshi and Rohingya staff to provide basic education, healthcare, nutritional support and creative opportunities to vulnerable Rohingya refugee children. 

After researching publications from different national and international organisations, I have found out some cost-effective ways to help with education and nutrition problems among Rohingya refugee children. 

With the support of local government and donor organisations we can develop Rohingya youth leaders in different refugee camps by providing them basic education, making them competent in the field of primary health care and nutritional assessment. 

Trained Rohingya youth leaders will go to every household in a periodic basis to provide care and will perform electronic documentation to address growth monitoring for each and every children so that donor organisations can provide them remuneration and rewards according to their performance.

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