I found myself on a long-anticipated journey in 2019. With a black suitcase, a bright pink vest and many questions, an American-Bengali high school girl was heading for the site of an immense international collaboration.
Little colourful sanctuaries, shaded by bamboo verandahs, and walls covered in handpainted flowers. 30 tiny children under six years of age laughing, playing, tumbling over each other. The bells of the tambourine, the chanting of tiny voices singing songs. These are Humanitarian Play Labs in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Imagine two-thirds of Manhattan’s population showing up at your doorstep overnight. Yet, Bangladesh responded with all its might. BRAC's Asif Saleh spoke on Bangladesh's journey in responding to the Rohingya crisis at this year's UN General Assembly.
One year on from the latest influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar, the settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are sheltering nearly a million people. 500,000 are children. Our goal for 2019 is to ensure access to education for 100,000 children.
Some said the children would die if they were given diphtheria vaccination. Some said they would become Christians if they took the shot. Others said women are not allowed to go out with their children for vaccinations, while some feared they would be reborn as a non-Muslim if they died after being vaccinated.
Nearly a million Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar. More than half of them are women and children- most of whom suffered unimaginable trauma. They have witnessed parents, siblings and neighbours being tortured and killed. Many have suffered sexual abuse.
Preventative measures are alarmingly necessary. Malnutrition has been flagged at acute emergency levels. Any outbreak of disease in the settlements would quickly claim the lives of thousands of malnourished children.
To close the month of Ramadan we got paints out in two of our child friendly spaces in Cox's Bazar. One space was in Ukhia (one of the host communities) and the other space was in Kutupalong Extension Settlement. This is what happiness looks like at Eid for them.