The terrible reality faced by refugee children in Bangladesh

Having worked for World Vision for 14 years, I've had the privilege of being deployed to a number of emergency responses – but the refugee crisis now in my home country has been the toughest I've seen. More than 600,000 refugees are seeking safety in Bangladesh after violence erupted in Myanmar over two months ago. They are in dire need of food, water, shelter, and healthcare.

I've visited many families and children in the refugee camps and the needs are massive. Nearly a quarter of a million children are in an extremely vulnerable condition, many of them traumatised after witnessing terrible violence right before their eyes.

World VisionDarren D'Costa working with children in a Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

In the camps, it's so sad to see children hungry, naked, sick, and fearful. In addition to needing things like food and clean water, they are at real risk of abuse and trafficking – and if child protection systems are not properly established, I'm afraid that the situation will only get worse. Parents have told me of their overwhelming fear of not being able to protect their kids.

A few days ago, I heard the story of a young boy who had sadly been trafficked. He was alone when he arrived in Bangladesh, and when his parents made it across the border they found him gone. It's hard to know how many other children have also faced this terrible fate.

Four-year-old Fiza (not her real name) is one of the lucky ones – she was almost taken by a stranger in the middle of the night, but luckily her sister woke up and scared him away.

'We left [Myanmar] to keep our children safe from the violence but... [now] we feel more vulnerable,' Fiza's mother told our team.

Thankfully, in coordination with the government and various agencies, World Vision is working hard to prevent child trafficking and abuse in the midst of this crisis.

We will build awareness among the refugees about child protection through establishing dedicated spaces for women and children in the camps. We're also planning to run campaigns to highlight the issue, and establish a child protection network.

As a child-focussed organisation, the protection of children is right at the heart of what we do. These refugees have suffered far too much. It's imperative we do all we can to offer them a bright future, safe from harm.

Darren D'Costa is the Child Protection Officer for World Vision's Refugee Response in Bangladesh. He has been working with the agency for 14 years.

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