By , , , , The Lancet

The Rohingya crisis is a concern for Bangladesh, currently hosting more than 1·1 million Rohingya people who have been subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing, and systematic discrimination for years in Rakhine, Myanmar.

Children make up 55% of the population, and there is little doubt about the magnitude of their health problems.

Prevalence of infectious diseases is high among Rohingya children because of inadequate coverage of vaccination, malnutrition, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and lack of access to safe water. Action Against Hunger estimated that 237 500 children aged 6 months to 15 years needed a measles–rubella vaccine.
One of the world’s largest diphtheria outbreaks happened in early November, 2017, and continued to spread until the outbreak stabilised in mid-2018.
The figure provides a summary of crucial epidemic-prone diseases monitored in 2018 and 2019 using data from WHO’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System.The 2019 statistics indicate that acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea spread in the Rohingya community, making treatment of these common diseases daunting. Moreover, the incidence of water-borne diseases usually rises during the monsoon season.

Figure: Epidemic-prone syndromes and diseases in the Rohingya refugee community reported through WHO’s Early Warning, Alert and Response System4, 5

Despite poor health infrastructure, sensible and systematic efforts by national and international organisations to improve the health of children are making a difference. Between late 2017 and December, 2018, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition in the Rohingya community dropped to 12% from 19%, immunisation coverage increased from less than 3% to 89%, and the proportion of women delivering in health facilities increased from 22% to 40%.

However, the prevalence of anaemia in children aged 6–23 months was more than 50%, and stunting among children aged 0–59 months is a serious concern.

The proportion of children in the Rohingya community at pre-primary and primary school level without access to education is approximately 50%, and only 3% of Rohingya adolescents have access to quality education and life-skills training opportunities.

Many of the children have mental health problems. According to one report,

52% of Rohingya children have emotional disorders. Traditionally, adolescent girls do not venture out of their homes after reaching puberty and they face violence and human rights abuse, including child marriage.

The future is uncertain for Rohingya children, and thus they are in danger of long-term psychological and social distress.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees population factsheet

indicated that as of July 31, 2019, nearly 16% of Rohingya parents raising children are single mothers, and 1% are single fathers. Moreover, 1% of Rohingya child refugees are orphans, and they are the most vulnerable members of the Rohingya community.

Rohingya women do not normally seek sexual and reproductive health services and, as a result, many births occur without the assistance of health facilities. Therefore, there is a need for essential reproductive services, along with maternal, child, and newborn health services.

Despite the progress of health outcomes in the last 2 years, Rohingya child refugees face substantial health risks. It is crucial to intensify health services and boost accessibility to essential reproductive health and care for newborns. Prompt action is also necessary to guarantee the satisfactory promotion of health and hygiene to the children and their mothers. Expanded provision of mental health services in the primary health-care system is necessary.

Poor access to health services, a shortage of food, and inadequate shelter are the contemporary challenges, and Rohingya children are suffering the most from these problems. Much more must be done to improve the health of these children before the consequences of living as refugees get worse. Recently, the refugees have refused to return to Rakhine state, demanding guarantees for their safety and citizenship.

The future of Rohingya children remains in peril if they stay longer in Bangladesh, and this generation will be condemned to a life in limbo.


1. UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Bangladesh refugee emergency population factsheet.

Date: July 31, 2019
Date accessed: August 1, 2019

2. Action Against Hunger

Emergency nutrition assessment final report: Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

3. Relief Web

Bangladesh: diphtheria outbreak—2017–2019.

Date accessed: April 15, 2019

4. WHO

Epidemiological highlights: week 30.

Date: 2019
Date accessed: August 1, 2019

5. WHO

Epidemiological highlights: week 32.

Date: 2018
Date accessed: April 18, 2019


2019 joint response plan for Rohingya humanitarian crisis, January–December.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian AffairsGeneva2019

7. Khan NZ , Shilpi AB, Sultana R, et al.

Displaced Rohingya children at high risk for mental health problems: findings from refugee camps within Bangladesh.

Child Care Health Dev. 2019; 4528-35

8. Tay AK, Islam R, Riley A, et al.

Culture, context and mental health of Rohingya refugees: a review for staff in mental health and psychosocial support programs for Rohingya refugees.

United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesGeneva2018

9. BBC News

Rohingya crisis: rallies mark two years of exile in Bangladesh.

Date: Aug 25, 2019
Date accessed: August 31, 2019
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