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Nowhere Children: Stateless Rohingya Boys and Girls Shelter in Bangladesh

Rohit Wadhwaney
Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
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Yasmin, a Rohingya teenage refuge in southeastern Bangladesh, stared blankly when asked questions about her family.

Her guardian – a former neighbor in Myanmar’s Rakhine state – replied on the 15-year-old’s behalf.

“She’s extremely traumatized,” Rashida Begum, 50, told BenarNews during a recent visit.

Begum said, Yasmin saw her parents and brother killed when the Myanmar military launched an offensive against Rakhine’s Rohingya Muslim community on Aug. 25, following attacks by Rohingya insurgents against government security posts.

“Leave aside talking, she starts shivering at the thought of stepping out of the hut to use the toilet,” Begum said.

Stories of traumatized children like Yasmin, who witnessed and survived atrocities, echo across a dozen camps in Cox’s Bazar district that house about 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

At least 655,000 of them arrived after the latest wave of violence broke out in Rakhine in late August.

About 60 percent of the newcomers are children, according to figures from U.N.-affiliated agencies. Almost 15,000 out of 350,000 children have lost one or both parents, the United Nations says. And about 20,000 children 5 or younger are acutely malnourished, according to UNICEF.

District authorities have set up hundreds of child-friendly centers to help Rohingya boys and girls overcome their trauma, Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Ali Hossain said.

“Through song, dance, art and interactive games, we are attempting to erase the dark memories they have of the recent brutalities,” UNICEF spokesperson Faria Selim told BenarNews.

Tushar Tohin and Abdur Rahman in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

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