(CEDAR’s Project Officer Pui Shan visits a Rohingya family in Cox’s Bazar. The mother, who gave birth to a newborn baby, heard about infant vaccination service during regular household visit conducted by community health workers.)
While strolling through a muddy and dusty field, CEDAR’s Project Officer Pui Shan saw rows of tents sitting next to each other that were simply built by timber and canvas.
This refugee camp is located in Cox’s Bazar, southeastern Bangladesh, which is the largest refugee camp in the world to date. The military force of Myanmar has been oppressing the Rohingya since 2017, which resulted in death of thousands and over 700,000 Rohingyas in the Rakhine State of Myanmar fleeing to its neighboring country, Bangladesh. In August this year, a report from the United Nations accused the Myanmar’s military of its crackdown on the Rohingya with “genocidal intent”. Two months later, the UN’s Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar revealed that the remaining Rohingya people in Myanmar were facing an “ongoing genocide”. It was not any easier for those who had fled to Bangladesh because they were constantly afflicted with separating with and hearing the death of families from afar. Moreover, these survivors were deeply troubled by the traumatising memory of their people being raped and killed in front of their very eyes.
Dream of Rohingya girls
Pui Shan paid a visit to Cox’s Bazar in December 2018, in which she had a conversation with 10 Rohingya girls about their dreams. It could well be a coincidence that they synchronised in saying that all they hope for was a safe shelter, a supply of food and fruits, and the reunion with their scattered family members. In Cox’s Bazar, many girls were forced to marry away due to their poor living circumstances. From the conversation, a girl who was under 10 years old came up to say that she benefitted from the Child Friendly Space as she learned about the impact of child marriage and the importance to stand against it. She also learned about self-protection and sex education through the programme.
Since the outbreak of the humanitarian crisis last year, CEDAR join effort with members of Integral Alliance to implement humanitarian response. In 2018, we have consecutively supported 4 Christian partners to work in the refugee camp, which include providing medical support (such as regular home visits done by community health workers), setting up health facilities, and establishing Child Friendly Space in order to cater the needs of women, babies, children, and adolescents. We acknowledge that it will take a significant amount of time for the refugees to tackle and recover from their mental, physical, and spiritual wounds. For this reason, a long-term and dedicated support is essential.
An Undying hope
Pui Shan said, “Seeing all these in the camps, the feeling of powerlessness crushed me. It was beyond my comprehension that if one relied on international aid to live their days. How would it be possible for someone like this to look for a way out?” Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to repatriate the Rohingyas to the Rakhine State this year. However, the safety in their homeland is yet to be improved and their citizenship is yet to be secured, the dilemma that the Rohingya community face is even more inexplicable.
Nevertheless, the difficult circumstances did not rob the hope of refugees and the workers. Community health workers take the opportunity to educate refugees on how to maintain their physical and mental health in their bi-weekly home visits, hence mothers were aware of the vaccination service provided to newborns in the clinic established by our partners. Next to the clinic is a circular centre, set up by our partner, refugees were invited to paint the walls together. Their envision for the future was presented through their paintings on the wall: blooming flowers, dancing butterflies, a boy with his flute, and a mother holding her baby dearly. According to Pui Shan, the centre serves as a safe place where people can openly share and support each other.
Pui Shan hereby invites all of you to show your support towards the Rohingya people, so that their aspiration of a peaceful world can come true. We will announce our future plans for the response as soon as we finish project assessment and evaluation. Please stay tuned with our website or Facebook.
*Christian organisations that CEDAR is partnering in the Rohingya Refugee Response are: Food for the Hungry, Medical Teams International, Tearfund Bangladesh, and Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB)