Interpreter and photographer Nihab Rahman contributed to this story from Bangladesh
For many refugees, their suffering doesn’t end with the arduous journey from home. Somira’s family is living such a reality. The young family consists of her father Amanulah, her mother Yasmin and her two siblings.
They are ethnic Rohingya refugees, who were forced to flee Myanmar almost a year ago. Many in their village weren’t so lucky and died.
When they first arrived at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, the largest refugee camp in the world, they had nothing. Amanulah had no choice but to beg for food until he received the tokens necessary to exchange for food and supplies. He used bamboo and tarps to construct a shelter as monsoon season quickly approached. To make matters worse, the children fell ill.
Somira had been treated for a respiratory infection a month ago and had recovered well. However, when the family settled into the camp she fell sick again — the muscles in her chest pulled tightly against her ribs with each breath. Thankfully, the family is located less than a 10-minute walk from a Medical Teams International health clinic. The clinic was able to administer essential medications and breathing treatments, allowing Somira to return home with the proper medications.
An Arduous Journey
The family’s story echoes the plight of many Rohingya refugees, torn from a happy life in Myanmar and forced to seek refuge in an unfamiliar place.
Amanulah was a fisherman back home. He took pride in providing for his wife and three young children. But then the military came and took everything from him.
Fleeing into the forest, the family waited in fear for two days as their village burned to the ground. The journey to Bangladesh took seven days as they had to hide along the way, fearing for their safety. When they reached Nakundya, a border town where they could get a boat to cross to Bangladesh, they didn’t have enough money for everyone to go. Amanulah sent his family across and returned to the village, hoping to find his cows and goats to sell. He only found ashes. The rest of the family was able to reunite with a relative that had been staying in Nyapara, one of the Rohingya refugee camps. After three days, Amanulah was finally able to cross into Bangladesh and find his family. They set off for Kutupalong, the largest Rohingya refugee camp, because they had heard food and supplies were available there. This is where they have made their new home.
Day by day, life has been improving for Somira’s family. They have enough food now and can sleep at night without being afraid. Somira is well taken care of and her family is thankful they now have access to medical care. When Amanulah is asked what he worries about, he does not think of monsoon season or the lack of supplies. He thinks of Somira and her breathing difficulties. He says he is happy despite this worry because he knows Medical Teams International will take care of her.
You can bring life-saving care to Rohingya refugees like Somira with a gift today.