From the Field

Myanmar refugees in Bangladesh: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

A woman holds a baby in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. More than 500,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh.

More than 500,000 people have fled their homes in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh since late August 2017 because of renewed fighting between inter-communal groups, minority groups, and government military forces. These  refugees, most who identify as Rohingya, are joining 300,000 others who had already settled in Bangladesh in the recent past years for the same reason.

The humanitarian situation continues to worsen with an increasing risk of disease in refugee settlements. Decades of tension and unrest in remote areas of Myanmar have displaced hundreds of thousands more people within the country too.

Here are some facts to help you understand why this refugee crisis, which has overwhelmingly affected a particular ethnic group, matters.

Who are the refugees who identify as Rohingya? 

Most of this Muslim ethnic minority group of about 1.1 million people live in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh and India. They identify as Rohingya, which was not one of the 135 officially recognized groups included in Myanmar’s most recent census in 2014, which estimated the total population at 52 million people.


Why are so many refugees fleeing Myanmar?

The recent surge of refugees crossing the border into Bangladesh is unprecedented due to the sheer size of what the U.N. is calling the world’s fastest developing refugee crisis. But there have been other significant movements in recent years because of armed conflict between the government and various minority groups.

What is happening in Myanmar and Bangladesh?

Armed conflict between minority groups 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.

The refugees pouring into Bangladesh is rapidly evolving. United Nations agencies developed a new plan to accommodate up to 200,000 more refugees in the coming months.

How many  refugees are in Bangladesh?

An estimated 519,000 people have fled as refugees to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, according to the International Organization for Migration. Most of them are living in informal settlements with little or no access to food, clean water, sanitation, or healthcare. Only 35,000 people are staying in two government-registered refugee camps, where they have better access to basic necessities.

How is World Vision helping the refugees?

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, drinking water, and household supplies to 5,000 families. We have operations in motion to assist 18,000 additional households with immediate, life-saving supplies like food, water, sanitation facilities, shelter, and other items. Our six-month response plan in Bangladesh aims to help more than 115,000 refugees.

How can I help refugees?

Right now, World Vision staff are working tirelessly to bring help and hope to refugees around the world.

  • Consider helping us continue the flow of emergency supplies and more to refugees by donating to World Vision’s refugee crisis fund.
  • Pray with us for the mothers, fathers, and children who had to abandon their homes and are struggling to survive in an unfamiliar place.


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