Rohingya Crisis: fast facts and how to help

Updated Nov 14, 2017
15-minute read
The plight of Rohingya refugees has been at the forefront of international news here in Canada, but you may still have questions about the Myanmar and Rohingya crisis. Here are some fast facts to help you better understand what is happening in Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh.
 
Why are so many refugees fleeing Myanmar?
Who are the Rohingya refugees?
What started the refugee crisis?
Who is helping the Rohingya people?
How can I help Rohingya refugees?

Why are so many refugees fleeing Myanmar?
Nearly 900,000 refugees, many of whom identify as Rohingya, have fled Myanmar for their lives. Armed conflict between minority groups, including the Rohingya, and government military forces has gone on for decades inside Myanmar. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the situation a “human rights nightmare” Sept. 28.
 
In late August 2017, fresh clashes broke out in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State where the majority of Rohingya’s reside. Since then, Myanmar’s military and police have been accused of mounting brutal attacks on the ethnic minority.
 
Who are the Rohingya refugees?
Most of this ethnic Muslim minority group live in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh and India. They identify as Rohingya, but this ethnic group is not one of the 135 ethnic groups officially recognized by the government of Myanmar.
 
Even though many Rohingya trace their roots in Myanmar back centuries, they are largely considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Because the government refuses to grant the Rohingya citizenship, it has left most of the population without legal documentation, rendering them stateless.  
 
What started the refugee crisis?
Discriminatory policies of Myanmar’s government since the late 1970s, as well as violence between differing ethnic groups, has compelled hundreds of thousands, including those who identify as of Rohingya Muslims, to flee their homes over the years.
 
The most recent wave of violence has by far been the worst. It began after clashes broke out in Rakhine state between minority groups and government militant forces. As violence escalated, it has been claimed that military and police forces have burned down hundreds of villages, and performed mass killings (including the murder of children) and rape.
 
This resulted in more than 600,000 people, many of whom identify as Rohingya, escaping Rakhine state to Bangladesh since August 25, 2017. Sixty per cent of these refugees are children, crossing at a rate of between 1,200 and 1,800 per day, many of whom have witnessed horrific atrocities in their homeland.
 
Who is helping the Rohingya people?
World Vision has been working in Myanmar since 1991, working with vulnerable communities throughout the country to provide health and nutrition services, access to education, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, and equip families to grow their livelihoods. We started in Bangladesh with emergency relief work in 1970, right before the country gained independence.

In response to the refugee crisis, World Vision staff in Bangladesh have mobilized resources to provide emergency food relief and mobile child friendly spaces for more than 100,000 people, including an estimated 63,150 children. We have operations in motion to assist with immediate, life-saving supplies like food, water, sanitation facilities, shelter, as well as protection for women and children.

Our six-month response plan in Bangladesh aims to help more than 115,000 refugees with these critical life-saving services.

World Vision is also focused on ensuring the safety and security of children in Bangladesh’s refugee camps – warning that thousands of children are at risk of being trafficked, sexually abused or exploited.

How can I help Rohingya refugees?
You can stand with Myanmar refugees – like Somsida, 11, who watched as her family members were murdered and her village burned to the ground. You can extend love, hope and comfort by making a donation to the Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund.


“In my dreams people are running, shouting, fighting, crying—then I wake up in fear.” Somsida, age 11, watched as her village in Myanmar was burned to the ground and her relatives murdered. Photo: Himaloy Joseph Mree/World Vision 2017

What’s more is that the Canadian government is matching eligible donations made by individual Canadians to World Vision and other registered charities, from August 25, 2017 to November 28, 2017.
 
Your support will help provide things like food assistance, shelter, child protection and water and sanitation support.

Pictured at top of page: Sweet six-month-old Nur is now motherless, having lost her mom to the violence that erupted in Rakhine State, Myanmar. “Nur gets her eyes from my daughter. She was tall…was pretty with light eyes. Nur is the only legacy left of my daughter,” says Aaira, a now heartbroken grandmother. Photo: Annila Harris/World Vision Canada 2017

By Alicia Dubay