Displaced Rohingya children at high risk for mental health problems: Findings from refugee camps within Bangladesh

Naila Z. Khan, Asma Begum Shilpi, Razia Sultana, Shaoli Sarker, Sultana Razia, Bipasha Roy, Abu Arif, Misbah Uddin Ahmed, Subas Chandra Saha, Helen McConachie - Child: care, health and development



The 2017 political violence against the Rohingya people in the state of Rakhine resulted in a large influx of displaced populations into Bangladesh. Given harsh conditions and experiences in Myanmar, and the harrowing journey to the border, raised levels of child neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) and mental health problems were expected.


A team of child development professionals, physicians, psychologists, and developmental therapists screened 622 children in clinics within the refugee camps using the Developmental Screening Questionnaire (DSQ; 0–<2 years), and the Ten Questions Plus (TQP) for NDDs, and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; 2–16 years) for mental health problems. Any child positive on the DSQ or the TQP was assessed for NDDs.


Only 4.8% children aged 0–<2 years and 7.3% children aged >2–16 years screened positive for NDDs, comparable with a local Bangladesh population. However, 52% of children were in the abnormal range for emotional symptoms on the SDQ, and 25% abnormal for peer problems. Significant risk factors were being parentless and having lost one or more family members in the recent crisis.


This screening study provides objective evidence of the urgent need for psychosocial support of Rohingya children within camps, with special attention to those without parents, including monitoring of their well‐being and counselling of families and other care providers.