Not even a shirt to wear

25 October 2017

Not even a shirt to wear

Following renewed tensions on 25 August, entire villages from the Rohingya community in northern Myanmar started fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have since crossed the border into Bangladesh by foot and boat. Refugee camps are full and resources are stretched thin. Incoming refugees are staying in makeshift tents and urgently need shelter, food, safe drinking water, and medical care.

A month ago, Hassan, a father of eight, was living with his family in Mongdu, a town in northwest Myanmar. He managed a small grocery and clothing shop in town. Rumours of violence nearby had started to spread through the town, but it wasn’t until a gang of men stormed his town and killed a man in front of him that terror set in.

Hassan ran immediately to his children’s school to collect them and the family fled together into the nearby forest. For three days they watched in horror as their town was burned to the ground. When the attackers began to enter the forest, Hassan and his family fled again, this time for the Bangladesh border.

After three days of walking, the family came to the edge of the river marking the border with Bangladesh. Hassan had a choice: cross through the treacherous waters or spend most of their money negotiating a safe boat passage for his family. Hassan spent the 60,000 Taka (about USD 740) to get his family safely across the border.

Once in Bangladesh, the family followed other fleeing families until they arrived at the temporary settlements where refugees were pouring in by the thousands per day.  Makeshift shelters of sticks and tarpaulin covered the hilly terrain.  The space was overcrowded and there was little space for the family to build a shelter for themselves.

Hassan and his family have nothing. One month ago he was selling shirts in his shop, now he doesn’t even own a shirt for himself. He spent the last of his money on a thin tarp and some bamboo poles to cover their heads and protect against the intense sun and heavy rains. A kind neighbour lent him a digging tool to clear their spot.

Hassan is thankful though to have his family all together. Many families have lost family members in the violence while others have been separated amongst the nearly 600,000 new refugees. Some families may never be reunited.

Medair is in Bangladesh to support World Concern to distribute shelter and hygiene kits to refugee families to help them stay healthy and prevent the spread of disease. Yet help is still urgently needed for the Rohingya people. Please give what you can today to help more families like Hassan's.

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