For a 7-year old, Mohammad Sohail is unusually quiet. He’s startled by the smallest sounds and rarely smiles. He clutches the hand of 18-year-old Jahangir Khan as the two make their way through the muddy and cramped alleys of the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in the southern Bangladesh district of Cox Bazar.

“I first saw him outside a local school where many child refugees are living about three weeks ago,” recalled Khan, a Rohingya refugee who was born in Kutupalong camp after his family fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State in the late 1970s. “His clothes were wet; he was shivering, and he looked lost. He looked like an orphan.” 

He essentially was.

There are more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. About 480,000 have fled Rakhine since Aug. 25, when Myanmar’s army began an operation against the Muslim minority group in retaliation for an attack by an armed Rohingya faction called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.  

The operation has emptied dozens of villages and forced people to flee the violence across Myanmar’s borders. 


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Sixty percent of these new refugees are children below the age of 18, according to UNICEF. And many of them like Mohammad — cold, scared, traumatized — are making the journey alone.

As of Sept. 20, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations have identified as many as 1,400 unaccompanied children who crossed the border alone — without their parents or any other relatives. It’s likely that this number vastly underestimates the real amount, aid workers say.

“The first thing you notice in any Rohingya refugee camp is just the sheer number of children — they are weak and hungry and have not slept for days,” said Christophe Boulierac, a UNICEF spokesperson, while tending to hundreds of children at a…