It doesn't take long for a chaotic scene to break out. A van of local volunteers may drive by, tossing out packets of biscuits or water bottles or even money. Large groups of Rohingya standing along the road start running after it, men, women and children. It's easy for children to wander too far away from home. They get confused about direction, simply following other groups of kids or adults to places where they think they might get some food or other relief material being handed out.
I happened to come across sisters Majidia and Jasminara, who appeared to be about 10 and 6. As aid trucks pulled into a food delivery area they lost track of their sister Dilnawaz. She is younger than Jasminara, the older girl said as she sobbed inconsolably. Little Dilnawaz didn't make her way back to her sisters.
Hunger is a constant and most children have to beg at some point if they are to eat. To do that, they have to leave their tents. Their parents, who are simply too overwhelmed and impoverished themselves, cannot chaperone them.
The situation has ramifications beyond the region and requires an international response. It's not a local problem, it's a global problem and the scale is tragic.
No one chooses, especially not in the hundreds of thousands, to leave their homes and ancestral land, no matter how poor the conditions, to flee to a strange land to live under plastic sheets and in dire circumstances except in life-threatening situations. Despite violence allegedly perpetrated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the whole Rohingya population should not have to pay the price.
Fear and terror are a constant for many of the children who make up about 60 percent of the Rohingya Muslims who have fled terrible persecution in Myanmar.
Abdul Hamid has the wide-open smile of a child and the eyes of an adult. By age 12, the Rohingya boy has seen more than anyone should have to see in a lifetime.
He saw his father shot by "Burma soldiers," he volunteers in a calm yet deeply unsettling tone, lifting two fingers of his right hand to illustrate the act. When his father didn't die right away, he saw the soldiers slash his throat.
His mother fled their home in Myanmar with Hamid and four younger siblings. They hid in forests for days and then walked for two days
Now he is the "elder" of his family, he says. So he tries to provide for them — as best he can in a place where hundreds of thousands of people share his family's desperation.
They have seen family members killed and homes set on fire. They have known fear and terror. And they have endured dangerous journeys through forests and on rickety boats. Now they've traded the fear and terror of Myanmar's northern Rakhine state for the chaos of refugee camps.
Most of the babies are sick, burning with fevers or suffering from diarrhea. Clean water and toilets are so rare as to be non-existent. And you only need to look closely at the children in the small room to see the wariness and sadness. Their bodies are tense. Their eyes dart around. The problems are enormous. Aid agencies like ourselves & UNICEF, are working with children in these camps are barely scratching the surface when it comes to addressing their mental and physical well-being.
We're very worried about the scale of the crisis and the gap there is between the need and available aid. Trafficking, servitude, sexual abuse and getting separated from their families are some of the fears that lurk here for children. Their circumstances have turned them into adults well before their time. Eight or 10-year-olds are caregivers and guardians for their toddler and infant siblings. They stand on the roadside, babies on their hips and in their arms, waiting endlessly for the trucks that distribute food aid.