UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis calls for urgent action for Rohingya refugee children
Actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis in Bangladesh to mark UN's Universal Children's day, 20th November 2017
Marking the United Nations Universal Children’s Day today, 20th November 2017, the internationally acclaimed actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR Kristin Davis is calling for global attention and funding to provide more life-saving aid for Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh.
Davis, speaking today with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, at the end of a visit to Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, said: “For me, the most shocking part of the Rohingya refugee crisis is the number of children who have had to flee their homes. Over half of the refugees in the camp are children. Some of them have lost one or both parents and they are on their own. These children have faced unimaginable horrors and chaotic violence and then a harrowing journey to safety. They are in need of everything including the very basics of shelter, water and food. I can’t imagine going through what these children and their families have gone through, much less having the strength, resilience and extraordinary bravery these children possess.”
“This is currently the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world and seeing the impact of this emergency on children is devastating,” Davis continued. “But there is hope. I have been witness to the fact the UNHCR, UN Refugee Agency, along with the Bangladeshi Government and its partners, are working around the clock to ensure refugees are safe, sheltered, and protected. UNHCR is also delivering life-saving services and assistance including clean water, shelter, blankets, cooking sets, tarpaulins, to the remotest of locations. But there is so much more to do and more international support is desperately needed.”
“The fact is that more funding, more donations, will save lives. Governments, the public, private sector, businesses, we all need to do what we can to help and donate now to support the Rohingya refugees,” Davis added.
The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar. Since violence erupted on 25th August 2017 in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, over 600,000 people have fled to Bangladesh. Children make up 54 percent of the total population; women 52 percent. Many others are elderly refugees requiring specific protection.
In a recent family counting survey of over 170,000 families, (over 740,000 individuals) the UNHCR teams found that so far:
- 5,677 (3.3%) of the households were headed by children
- More than 4,800 households (2.8 per cent) include separated and unaccompanied children
- One-third of the refugee families are highly vulnerable.
- As many as 14 per cent of families are composed of single mothers holding their families together with little support in harsh camp conditions.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has additionally deployed more than 100 specialized staff to this crisis and has airlifted some 1,500 metric tons of aid to Bangladesh since 25th August, including tents, plastic sheets, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans. More aid is being moved by sea.
Louise Aubin, UNHCR’s Senior Emergency Co-ordinator based in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, said, “UNHCR's first aim is to support the Government of Bangladesh in receiving, protecting and providing lifesaving assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Their families and communities have been torn apart and they are in desperate need of the most basic services - like medical assistance, food and shelter. We are here to help the refugees rebuild their lives and for this we need international support and funds to respond to the massive humanitarian needs here.”
UNHCR requires US$83.7 million to respond to humanitarian needs in Bangladesh until the end of February 2018 in order to meet the acute needs of children, women and men fleeing conflict. UNHCR’s response is currently less than half funded.
Notes to editors:
- Internationally renowned actress Kristin Davis became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR in 2016.
- Kristin has championed the work of UNHCR and the plight of refugees in media appearances, fundraising events and through social media activism.
- In 2014, Kristin travelled to northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with UNHCR. There she met with families from South Sudan who had been displaced due to conflict and violence. She listened to the difficulties they had endured in leaving everything they had behind in order to reach a safe environment.
- After her visit, Kristin filmed a moving piece about a young woman named Fiona, a Sudanese refugee, for World Refugee Day. The video was used as a Public Service Announcement (PSA) reaching over 300 million people.
- In December 2016 Kristin visited Rwanda to meet with displaced families from Burundi and the Congo. Kristin visited them again in 2017 after they had resettled, this time, in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, USA.
- Kristin has this week been in Hong Kong to attend two high level events for UNHCR– once again supporting fundraising work. She used the opportunity of being in Asia to visit Bangladesh and see for herself the life-saving work being done by UNHCR for the Rohingya crisis in order to raise awareness and support fundraising efforts.
Family Counting Exercise in Bangladesh, more information:
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, completed the first phase of Rohingya refugee family counting in early November. More than half a million refugees from Myanmar had been counted. The exercise, conducted jointly by UNHCR and Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), took place in the Kutupalong camp, makeshift and extension areas and Balukhali makeshift areas and is now extending to further south. Going from shelter to shelter, more than 100 UNHCR-hired enumerators have gathered data (as of November 19th 2017) on 172,032 families (745,135 individuals).
In an innovative and revealing family counting exercise, UNHCR teams found that one-third of the families are vulnerable. As many as 14 per cent are single mothers holding their families together with little support in harsh camp conditions. Others are struggling with serious health problems or disabilities. There is also a high proportion of elderly people at risk, unaccompanied and separated children – some of them taking care of younger siblings. Children made up 54 percent of the total population; women 52 percent. Most of those counted (72 per cent) arrived in Bangladesh after violence erupted in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state in late August, whereas the remaining sought refuge in Bangladesh prior to the latest influx. The majority (70 per cent) came from Maungdaw township, with smaller numbers from Buthidaung and Rathedaung.
The mobile data collection was designed in such a way that data can be collected with GPS even when the team has no network coverage. As soon as the mobile device is on the network, the collected data is automatically uploaded to a secure server. This design has allowed UNHCR to collect the necessary data and consolidate, analyse and visualise it quickly. The RRRC-UNHCR exercise will quickly extend its coverage further south into Teknaf in the coming weeks. The geo-tagged data of each family and the barcoded RRRC Family Counting Card has given a shape to Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh in terms of demography and location.
The design and methodology of this family counting exercise are somewhat unique in UNHCR's emergency registration history. Because the refugees are still on the move and site zoning is still in progress, the enumerators visit their shelters individually, meaning that refugees do not have to queue to be counted. The information collected in this ongoing exercise will be useful not only for UNHCR and the Bangladeshi authorities but also for all humanitarian partners in their planning and 'interventions' for the benefit of the refugees.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Cox’s Bazar, Mohammed Abu Asaker, [email protected], +880 18 7269 9849
- In Cox’s Bazar, Mitra Salima Suryono, [email protected], +880 19 0620 0363
- In Geneva, Duniya Aslam Khan, [email protected], + 41 79 453 25 08
- In Geneva, Andrej Mahecic, [email protected], + 41 79 642 97 09
For enquiries about Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis please contact:
- Sarah Epstein, Global Goodwill Ambassador Programme, [email protected], +44 (0) 7572 601088
(Please note Kristin Davis is not available for immediate interview)