A new study, released this week to mark the one-year anniversary since the military crackdown, suggests that some 70 per cent of all unaccompanied Rohingya children were separated from their parents or guardians through violent attacks.
Save The Children said the survey, involving 139 unaccompanied and separated Rohingya children, was the largest of its type conducted so far in Cox’s Bazar. It dispels the previously held belief that many children had lost contact with their families in the chaos of fleeing over the border to Bangladesh.
Joining up separated children with extended families or foster parents in the camps has proved difficult. According to Unicef, up to 10 per cent of the entire camp population consists of children living without a guardian.
Arefa* was 16 when the army came to her village. She had gone to collect water, and when she came back saw from a distance that the armed forces were outside her home.
She says she hid in the bushes with her neighbours and watched as the army starting shooting, first the old people and children. When the other adults started shouting “stop, stop”, they shot them too.
Among those killed in front of her were her father, mother and seven brothers and sisters.
She fled with neighbours to Bangladesh and now lives alone, only receiving occasional counselling and support from girls-only centres in the camp.
Arefa receives weekly visits from Keya, a 23-year-old Bangladeshi anthropology student who is volunteering with Save The Children as a case worker in Cox’s Bazar.
She explains that Arefa’s traumatic experience means she cannot face living with foster parents, and at 17 years old it is her right to choose to live alone. “She has already lost everyone, there is no one left for her, she does not want to live with another family,” Keya says.