It’s an often perilous journey - one that frequently ends in tragedy. In early September, 46 bodies were recovered after a boat crammed with refugees capsized; 11 days ago, another boat sank with 80 people on board. Fewer than twenty survived. Yet still the refugees keep coming - the risk on the water preferable to that of staying and facing Myanmar’s military.
My heart weighs heavily. Anyone at home who has kept up with the news, particularly the Rohingya refugee crisis fleeing to Bangladesh due to the hidden genocide events. A month ago Rohingya insurgents declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire, allowing aid like the MSF team to reach north-western Myanmar without harm. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) had strongly encouraged us and all concerned humanitarian actors to resume humanitarian assistance to all victims of the crisis, irrespective of ethnic or religious background during the ceasefire period; Not to mention the government encouraging refugees to fell the border during this month of safe passage through rebel-held crossing points, that period ends tonight.
There are a few cases that will stick with you forever, where the unseen cannot not be reversed:
- A woman who lives in the camp with her daughter, where her husband and son were killed, and her other daughter was raped then killed. The woman suffer from anxiety, heart palpitation and was “crying, crying, crying”. —> Their condition is difficult. It’s so miserable.
- A small girl had started to cry when my colleague entered the tent. When asked the girl’s mother why the daughter was scared, she said it was because of his pants. Rohingya usually wear a lungi, a kind of sarong with a knot at the top where valuables are stored. His pants reminded her of the pants the military wears. “ It feels like they’re not burning our houses, it feels like they’re burning us”
- 13 month old - cheekbones jutted out below sunken eyes - measuring tape around her pencil-thin arm and placed her on the scales = 5.5 kg (less than the weight of a healthy child half her age)
- 8 month old - a skeletal girl died after admitted with severe malnutrition and pneumonia
- A woman gave birth in no man’s land; another held up a 7-day old baby begging for help; another arrived to the clinic with her leg blown off apparently in a landmine explosion where the border of Myanmar is mined to deter fleeing members.
- Most heartbreaking have involved teenage girls with intellectual disabilities who were raped repeatedly.
One of the worst cases is that of a woman who fled her village without her child when it came under fire. She suffered from intense feelings of guilt, exacerbated by seeing other mothers with their children. After a few weeks of searching with the help of teammates, we were able to reunite her with her child and I'd say I can definitely leave with my heart feeling full.