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.
People stretched as far as I could see. Young, old and every age in between, all standing in lines for hours to receive food. What most shocked me was the number of children. There were just so many of them. So many hungry eyes.
A diphtheria outbreak in the Rohingya makeshift settlements has killed 20 people as of December 17, 2017. With 1,500 suspected cases, the number is growing. The 656,000 Rohingya people who sleep every night without electricity, dream in the colours of recent trauma and wake up to uncertainty, cannot afford to be hurt further.
Almost each day these days, I wake up and make my way to the makeshift camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar, the site of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis of recent times. Life in these settlements is brutal- I see the struggles of the women, men and children who have recently arrived, most exhausted and traumatised.
Deep inside the chaotic makeshift settlements of Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, is a spacious, shaded, colourful place. A bamboo structure with handmade decorations hanging from the walls. Curious onlookers gather outside the thatched windows, attracted by the rhythm.
An estimated 507,000 people are now living on the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar, and more than half of them are children. Most of them have arrived with zero possessions, apart from the clothes they wore while making the long and dangerous journey.
Nine-year-old Amin plays with a rhino and a horse in a land of make believe. It has been a week since he arrived in Bangladesh with his family. Their route took them through the sea for two days and across deep valleys and thick jungle for another three days.
While the situation is the worst it has ever been, we are better equipped than we have ever been. This success can be credited to collaborative efforts by the government and civil society, which ensure shelter homes, pre-disaster preparedness, and early warning systems.
“What’s there to be afraid of?” they shot back, shrugging their shoulders with cheeky smiles. This was their reaction to Cyclone Roanu, which swept the coast of Bangladesh on 21 May 2016, killing 21 people and destroying 200,000 homes.