'The kids I met were smiling but I could still see [signs of] sadness in their eyes that reflects the carnage and horror they witnessed'
Unicef Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra has called for more support for vulnerable Rohingya refugee children and women following a visit to Cox's Bazar where she met Rohingya children and families living in squalid camps and informal settlements.
"The whole world has to care and take action. A child is a child. It's a responsibility for all. These children have nothing," she told a press conference in Dhaka Thursday evening.
"It's heartening to see the immense support that has been provided by the government of Bangladesh. They have not just opened their hearts but have made every effort to accommodate as many refugees as they can."
Speaking of the sufferings of Rohingya children at refugee camps, the Indian actor said: “For a lot of the Rohingya children, this ordeal will leave them scarred, physically and emotionally, for the rest of their lives. With your help, maybe these children can have a chance at a future.”
Saying the future of these children with no opportunity of education will be bleak, she urged the international community not to divide the world of children, and to stand with children, who she said should have no border or particular identity.
After seeing the overwhelming photos and images of the Rohingya crisis that unfolded last year, she said that visiting the camps, especially meeting the children and their families affected, made her better understand the enormity of the crisis.
Nearly 60% of more than 700,000 refugees are children, living in desperately difficult conditions - without access to permanent shelter, clean and safe water, and food, and with limited access to makeshift settlements.
In the past four days, Priyanka has seen the incredible work that Unicef and its partners have done for Rohingyas, and the progress made in these makeshift camps in the last nine months, but there is still a lot to do to protect these displaced people.
"The kids I met were smiling but I could still see [signs of] sadness in their eyes that reflects the carnage and horror they witnessed. Yet, at the same time, meeting children at a learning centre, I saw the real hope. I saw children happy, learning, and playing," she said.
"There are so many more children eager to go to school. Because of lack of space, only a fraction of these children have access to the basic education provided by Unicef."
The Indian actor visited the border, through which hundreds of thousands of Rohingya men, women, and children crossed into Bangladesh following the escalation of violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar in August last year.
She also learnt about Unicef's work to support the nutritional needs of children, including screening and treatment of severe acute malnutrition at a nutrition centre at a Jamtoli makeshift settlement in Ukhiya upazila.
At the camp, Priyanka met many children who were being screened for malnutrition, and helped doctors assess a child who was subsequently diagnosed as malnourished.
Then, she visited a Unicef-supported learning centre in Balukhali, where she played with refugee children and actively participated in their lessons.
The Bollywood superstar arrived in Bangladesh on May 21 on a four-day visit to Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar. Glitz and glamour are not all that matter to Priyanka to get a first-hand idea on the condition of the displaced refugees.
Later in the day, Priyanka paid a courtesy call to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence, Ganabhaban, and appreciated Bangladesh’s support to Rohingyas.
During the meeting, she said the world should learn from Bangladesh on how to stand beside distressed people.
Hasina said her government had been making efforts to give the Rohingyas all kinds of support, but it was not possible for the government alone to relieve their sufferings.
Unicef and other international agencies should come forward with more support, she said.