Over the past few years, streams of injured and exhausted Rohingya refugees have crossed the Myanmar/Bangladesh border on foot with little more than the clothes they were wearing at the time. After their perilous journey through Myanmarese military attacks, the dense jungle border and unwelcoming Bangladeshi border control guards, Cox’s Bazar region in southern Bangladesh is where they finally find safety and security. Cox’s Bazar region, Bangladesh’s prime tourist destination with its 120km beach (claimed to be the longest unbroken sea beach on the planet) is now home to the largest Rohingya refugee camps in the world. Since what the UN has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” intensified once again on 25th Aug 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.
On arrival at Balukhali and Kutupalong Camps, it soon became clear to me that the scale of the impromptu settlements expanding to the horizon as far as the eye can see is truly one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies the world has witnessed in recent times. Standing on the top of a hill, I found myself looking at a makeshift city of flimsy shelters made from sticks and tatty pieces of plastic, with raw sewage flowing around clusters of exhausted people in dirty clothes. At times, the smell of sewage was overwhelming and with an absence of electricity it was easy to imagine how frightening and dangerous the night here would be particularly for the large number of widowed women staying on their own; many of whom are already burdened with HIV having been gang raped by groups of soldiers in Myanmar.
Subhan’Allah, it is hard for me to comprehend how it must feel for these people to have undergone such barbaric persecution in Myanmar, leaving everything they knew and possessed behind, in exchange for horrifying memories and stories of bloody massacres, systematic rape, torture and arson.
During our first aid drop, we arrived to evergrowing queues of exhausted refugees desperately waiting for some aid. Our visit to the camp was unannounced and yet hoards of people were waiting for our arrival… for someone’s arrival. How long had they been waiting for? Do they wait like this in the hot sun every day? These were some of the questions running through my mind at the time. As we distributed the aid to weak and malnourished people with traumatised and blank expressions on their faces, it was heartbreaking to see the number of women and children collecting aid on their own, barely able to carry the aid bags on their weak, fragile, dusty heads. At one stage, a fight between two youths broke out as they battled each other over a food parcel. Such is the desperation of this destitute community.
Jazakallah khair to you all for your generous donations. Alhamdulila, through your valuable support we were able to purchase and distribute around 470 food parcels, hygiene packs and blankets. Each food parcel consisted of 5kg rice, 2kg lentils, 1 kg salt, 1kg sugar, 2L cooking oil, 3 packs of semya, 500g powdered milk, 5 packs of energy biscuits and 1kg of dates. Each hygiene pack consisted of 2x antibacterial soap bars, 2x clothes washing soap bars, 10 sanitary towels, 2 bottles of tooth powder, 24 mini shampoo and a small bath towel. Thick large fleece type blankets were also distributed to support the refugees through the fast approaching winter months.
Refugees use food sparingly as they do not know when their next parcel will come. Some eat only once a day to maximise from the food they have received. As a result, it is likely that each food parcel and hygiene pack will last a family of six for approx. four weeks in sha Allah. Some of your donation money was also allocated towards the implementation of much needed water pumps. We asked some members of the Rohingya community living in the camps what they felt was most needed at the time of our visit. Shockingly, the poignant answer to this question was for “stretchers… to carry our dead and sick people.” As a result, your donation money has also gone towards the construction and delivery of six good-quality, waterproof stretchers, which should be completed and delivered to the camps soon in sha Allah.
Although the Bangladesh Army are doing a great job at providing crowd control and organisation during the aid drops, unfortunately it is not easy to gain access to the Rohingya refugee camps. However, through the invaluable support of the Crisis Aid Team (a registered British Muslim charity) as well as brother Aman and his family and friends in Bangladesh, this trip was very smooth and successful, alhamdullila. Jazakallah khair to them all for their support. Crisis Aid are currently planning their third trip to the camps in Feb 2018. If you are interested in providing further support to our Rohingya brothers and sisters stranded in Bangladesh, please do feel free to donate to their ongoing Rohingya Appeal.
Jazakallah khair to you all for your generous donations and support. Please do continue to support such worthy causes, as Allah has placed us in a very fortunate position in the UK, alhamdullila. For sure, the Rohingya people are enduring a tough test. However, this is also a test for us – a test to see how we will react to such desperate situations and what sort of support we will provide. Please do remember our Rohingya brothers and sisters, and others like them around the world, in your du’aas.
Please see the pictures I took during the trip.