Dhaka, 11 February 2022 (TDI): Bangladesh is one of the most progressive countries in the developing world in the 20th century, however, it is still yet marked by a crisis of a lack of protection. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working to turn this reality around.

The international organization has a number of camps set up throughout the country that could provide a safe haven for the children of Bangladesh. Here are some heartbreaking yet hopeful stories of the children whose lives have improved as a result of such initiatives taken by the organization.

From begging on the street to living a life full of hope – Rafi 

As a result of the beatings he received from his stepmother in his home, the young boy turned to his grandmother to provide him with a form of shelter, however taking into consideration she was enveloped in the struggle to provide for his households and meet basic ends, the boy took the brave yet dangerous step to migrate to the capital of the country, Dhaka in order to benefit from the economic opportunities that the hub of business promised.

Leaving the city he called home, Barisal, Rafi was on his way via a steamboat, traveling 200 kilometers to make a prosperous living for himself. In his words, as stated by UNICEF, he only had a phone and umbrella and no place to sleep, and no food to sustain himself.

In order to provide his body with the necessary energy and nutrients it required, he sold the only assets available to him; some passionate citizen within the big city assisted him by purchasing shoes for the young boy as he did not have any.

Having only been 11 years of age, the boy made a living carrying the luggage of passengers who traveled through Dhaka’a busy port river. With the development of COVID19, the boy switched to producing and selling face masks for the passengers on the port.

However, even with all the hard work, the boy committed himself to, working 12 hours a day, he only managed to make $2 a day. As the pandemic advanced, the lockdown was introduced along with travel restrictions, the terminal that provided him with the basic necessities to survive soon closed down for 2 months, and Rafi was once again left in poverty, without any earnings.

His only form of survival was the food that was handed to him through NGOs until one day by chance of luck, he stumbled across one of the many UNICEF tents that were set up across the country. It was the Child Protection Services Hub established by UNICEF.

There are 12 such hubs set up across Bangladesh and such hubs established who were providing 40 children on a daily basis with safe accommodation for 15-20 young individuals each night. Along with counseling, these hubs have worked to reunite these children with their families.

As stated by the Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF Bangladesh, Natalie McCauley, the hubs established by UNICEF have provided and constructed the lives of more than hundreds of children that were vulnerable, especially those in poverty whose situations were only made worse as a result of the pandemic.

The social worker that had worked with Rafi stated there was a marked improvement in Rafi since he came to the camp. At the time of his arrival, the young boy had been marked by sadness and a lack of motivation, however, with the time spent in the camp, Rafi was now thinking of going back to live with the grandmother he loved so much.

UNICEF provides a safe haven for children
A picture of Rafi, happily holding up the painting he made in one of the UNICEF camps in Dhaka.
The tale of Imran Hossain

Imran was yet another child who was just 11 years old, being the eldest offspring of his family, he often spent his time assisting his family in their business that was located in the highly populated area of Wasa Colony in the region of Sayedabad within Dhaka.

While his mother earned income through working as a domestic worker, his father worked as a rickshaw puller, Imran on the other hand assisted by working in a paper recycle shop once he was done with the educational activities of his school.

However, with the development of the pandemic, earnings for the family resorted from little to none. His father became a victim of an illness, his family migrated back to their village, his school had closed down as a result of the lockdown and he resorted to working in order to support the family.

For this, the 11-year-old had to move back to Dhaka to work however he stumbled across the UNICEF camp and was able to have access to health care as well as psychosocial counseling, along with training of life skills and activities that propelled him to better well-being.

Following the 2 weeks he spent at the camp, he desired to visit his family again and was thrilled to know his health care worker had made arrangements for him in order to see that come to fruition.

With the end of the lockdown, his family and he migrated back to Dhaka in their colony, and the UNICEF social worker is continually supporting him.

This was made possible with the help of the European Union 

Through the amount that was given to UNICEF Bangladesh by the EU, such a program was made possible for the children there. UNICEF has expressed its gratitude to the EU for making this possible.