‘Har­row­ing’ tales told to

But in­ter­na­tional re­sponse is help­ing to save lives

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - NEWS - BY KIERAN BEAT­TIE

The Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar has be­come one of the many piv­otal points of the in­ter­na­tional re­lief ef­fort to help thou­sands of men, women and chil­dren flee­ing Myan­mar.

Last week, around 2,000 peo­ple a day made the dan­ger­ous cross­ing from the cri­sis-hit coun­try to neighbouring Bangladesh. More than half a mil­lion peo­ple have fled since Ro­hingya mil­i­tants at­tacked po­lice posts, re­sult­ing in a mil­i­tary crack­down in late Au­gust.

One of the many hun­dreds of in­ter­na­tional aid work­ers help­ing to save lives on the front line of the hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter in Cox’s Bazar is Aberdeen wo­man Hi­maya Quasem, 36, who ar­rived in the coun­try last week.

Dur­ing her time in the refugee camps, the Ac­tionAid UK worker con­firmed she had heard “har­row­ing” tales from sur­vivors, but also signs of hope that the world­wide re­lief ef­fort was mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

She said: “I ar­rived last Thurs­day and things have been good in terms of be­ing able to see what it’s like in the camps, and meet­ing the women and chil­dren that we are sup­port­ing.

“But it’s also very har­row­ing here. Peo­ple have been through a lot. There are lots of trau­ma­tised peo­ple who have wit­nessed loved ones be­ing slaugh­tered and their houses burned.

“We’ve in­ter­viewed chil­dren whose par­ents have been shot dead in front of them. They’re all here now in a place of rel­a­tive safety, but they’re in need of a lot of help.

“There is the coun­selling and psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port they need, but also the ba­sic needs of food and proper shel­ter, and san­i­ta­tion.”

Ms Quasem ex­plained that many in­di­vid­u­als had been forced to flee their burn­ing homes with lit­tle more than the clothes on their backs. She added that even the most ba­sic of ne­ces­si­ties be­ing sent to Bangladesh were help­ing to save lives.

She said: “It’s very dif­fi­cult to see the con­di­tions and is­sues peo­ple are fac­ing, but it’s good to know the re­sponse from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is start­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.

“I met a 10-year-old girl called Taslima, who saw her dad be­ing shot and her mother died a cou­ple of months ear­lier from ill health.

“She’s fled to Bangladesh af­ter walk­ing bare­foot for five days, and yes­ter­day she was at a dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre, run by Ac­tion Aid, where we were giv­ing out es­sen­tials such as san­dals, soap, clothes and un­der­wear.

“That was the first time she had worn shoes in the 20 days since she ar­rived in Bangladesh.

“So there are sto­ries like this, and many oth­ers, of peo­ple who have been through so much and are still sur­viv­ing, thanks to the in­ter­na­tional aid.”

To do­nate to help aid work­ers like Ms Quasem, visit www.ac­tionaid.org.uk/do­nate/ro­hing­yarefugee-cri­sis

“We’ve seen chil­dren whose par­ents were shot dead”

A child plays in the mud in the refugee camp

Ne­go­ti­at­ing the muddy foot­paths in the tem­po­rary refugee vil­lage

Hi­maya Quasem

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