Myanmar Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh: 150,000 Refugee Children Under 5 Acutely Malnourished, Warns CARE

Myanmar Refugee Crisis in Bangladesh: 150,000 Refugee Children Under 5 Acutely Malnourished, Warns CARE

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COX’S BAZAR (Oct. 13, 2017) — More than 150,000 refugee children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished, warns the poverty-fighting organization, CARE.

"The situation of the children is desperate; many have not eaten more than one meal a day for weeks. We are especially concerned that they will fall sick,” says Zia Choudhury, CARE’s country director in Bangladesh.

The hygiene and sanitation situation in the camps is very poor: On average 2,000 people share only one toilet.

“Even before fleeing, many of the children were severely malnourished. Their condition in the camps is worrying,” says Choudhury. “They have been living in extremely difficult and unhygienic conditions, which makes them susceptible to infections.”

Children with acute malnutrition have very low weight for their height, severe muscle wasting and may also have nutritional edema, the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition.

“Malnutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life can have a very negative lasting impact on the child’s future health and development,” says Choudhury. “Although aid has reached some, the majority of the refugees are still in desperate need of clean drinking water, nutritious food and medical help.”

More than half a million refugees from Myanmar sought safety in Bangladesh after violence broke out in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State in August. CARE is helping to identify and treat cases of severe acute malnutrition in children under 5. So far, more than 13,000 children have been screened in the camps, of whom more than 11,000 will be treated with specialized therapeutic food in the next six months.

To provide ongoing food support, CARE has distributed cooked food to more than 3,500 people as well as dry food, such as rice, oil, sugar and salt, to more than 7,500 people.

“People who live deeper inside the camps are isolated from receiving aid and many do not even know assistance is available,” says Choudhury. “We need to make sure to reach everyone, but for that we need more support.”

In the coming months, CARE will distribute hygiene and safe delivery kits and provide health services to prevent a possible disease outbreak. To respond to the most urgent needs over the months ahead, CARE is appealing for $10 million.

CARE has worked in Bangladesh since 1949, and has extensive experience responding to humanitarian disasters. CARE has worked in Cox’s Bazar district, where most refugees have sought shelter, for many years, working in the areas of food security, disaster risk reduction, women’s empowerment and emergency response. In the last five years, CARE has supported more than 450,000 people in Bangladesh with lifesaving assistance.

About CARE

Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Last year CARE worked in 94 countries to reach 80 million people, including more than 11 million through emergency response and humanitarian aid. Learn more at

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CARE has been distributing cooked food - often door to door - to over 3500 people, especially women and children, living in different makeshift camps. Credit: Kathleen Prior/CARE