SEATTLE — Priyanka Chopra, a 35-year-old actress who became the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for child rights in 2016, went on a four-day trip to informal settlements and refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, near the southern tip of Bangladesh, to meet Rohingya refugee children as a part of her work with UNICEF.
Children Often the Most in Need During Refugee Crises
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund works in 190 countries to create a better world for those children who were not born into the luxury of having the basic necessities to live. Without a global effort to alleviate poverty, UNICEF predicts that by 2030, 167 million children will live in extreme poverty, 69 million children under the age of five will die between now and 2030 and 60 million people of primary school age will not be in school. This is why it is so important for people such as Chopra to be visiting these camps and opening people’s eyes to what is happening on the other side of the world.
Bangladesh is known to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world. More than 700,000 of the refugees, almost 60 percent, are children. These Rohingya refugee children have few resources available to them, leaving them deprived of water, food, education and shelter.
As Chopra told Look to the Stars, “The kids I met were smiling but I could still see a sadness in their eyes that reflected the carnage and horror they witnessed.” Though the ambassador could see everything was not perfect in Bangladesh, she remained positive after seeing firsthand the improvements made thus far.
Bangladesh Provides Rohingya Refugee Children with Essential Services
Some of the advancements made in the refugee camps include the establishment of a nutrition center where Rohingya refugee children can be screened and treated for malnutrition. Here, mothers can also learn correct breastfeeding practices, which is vital as about 60 babies are born here each day and 163,295 children under the age of five are living in the camps. In addition, a UNICEF-supported learning center in Balukhali helps Rohingya refugee children begin to receive an education through games, songs and various lessons.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have been taken in by the government of Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. The estimated cost for the government to be running these camps is about $1 billion per year. The size of the camp is comparable to the size of Austin, Texas.
Many Rohingya refugees say they would not want to return to Myanmar, where they had been abused and deprived of the basic amenities they are provided with in the camps, such as food, shelter, sanitation, schools and peace. Some refugees who have come to the camp even had to be told not to eat the soap, as they had never before been in contact with basic toiletries.
Almost one in four Bangladeshis live in poverty. This is precisely why the camps need continued support, because as Chopra told Look to the Stars, “No matter where a child is from or what his or her circumstances are, every child is the future of this world, and it is up to us, as global citizens, to make sure they have a future.”
– Raven Patzke