THE children who make up most of the nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar are experiencing a “hell on earth” in overcrowded and squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh, Unicef has said.

The UN children’s agency has issued a report that documents the plight of children who account for 58 per cent of the refugees who have poured into Cox’s Bazar over the last eight weeks. Report author Simon Ingram said about one in five children in the area are “acutely malnourished”.

The report comes ahead of a donor conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday to drum up funding for the Rohingya.

“Many Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh have witnessed atrocities in Myanmar no child should ever see, and all have suffered tremendous loss,” Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement.

The refugees need clean water, food, sanitation, shelter and vaccines to help prevent a possible outbreak of cholera — a potentially deadly water-borne disease.

Ingram also warned of threats posed by human traffickers and others who might exploit youngsters in the refugee areas.

“These children just feel so abandoned, so completely remote, and without a means of finding support or help. In a sense, it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” he told a news conference in Geneva.