Dhaka: “They slaughtered my husband and son in front of my eyes. I fled for my life along with other villagers. Our total family number is eight. Two of them were slaughtered by the army and the other six of us came to Bangladesh.
“I can barely walk. I carried my three-year-old son on a long and dangerous journey that took us weeks. About 100,000 people from our villages fled to Bangladesh.”
Jamila, 35, is one of more than 1.2 million displaced people currently seeking shelter from persecution in Bangladesh.
She lives in a thrown together tent made of bamboo and tin in Ukhiya sub-district, which borders Myanmar. Everyone here has a story just like Jamila’s.
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority, now the world’s most persecuted people.
Jamila recounted her ordeal when her husband and her teenage son were killed in their village in Rakhine by the Myanmar army two years ago.
More than 1.2 million Rohingya people have arrived in Bangladesh Cox’s Bazar District in just over a year, fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Many of those who have made the long and dangerous journey are women and children, often travelling alone as their husbands had been slaughtered in the recent attacks on Rohingya villages or had been taken away many months or even years before.
Refugees recount travelling through deserted Rohingya villages to Bangladesh borders, surviving by eating the food left behind by fleeing villagers. Some of them made it to Bangladesh while others died on the long journey.
Aid agencies say children, widows, the elderly and the disabled are the most vulnerable, requiring aid in the form of food, shelter and healthcare.
Oman has played an integral part in ensuring that aid reaches these forgotten people. The Sultanate has been helping the Rohynga since the crisis began. Jamila added: “If we get our rights in Burma and if the situation is stable like in Bangladesh, we will go back to Myanmar. We only want peace from Myanmar after they tortured and slaughtered my family.”
Video: Thank you Oman, for helping us — Bangladesh foreign minister
Janat Bedum, 67-years-old, lives on a hilltop with her daughter, Aiesha at the temporary camp in Cox’s Bazar.
She told the Times of Oman that she fled from her village in Maungdaw one year ago.
“They killed six of my sons by the offensive carried out by the Myanmar military. We are only two left. At least here in Bangladesh, I can take my last breath without fear of being attacked by the army,” Janat said, tears rolling down her face. “Around 80 per cent of the Rohingya refugees have been housed in camps here while the rest of them are accommodated in Teknaf which is closer to the border with Myanmar,'’ said Mohd Nikaruzaman, Additional District Commissioner of Ukhiya sub-district.
He added that health and sanitation are big issues to be tacked in the camps. “It’s very challenging for us, but we provide bathrooms, safe drinking water and vaccination against cholera at the camps. The local and global organizations are also helping us in providing medicine, food and shelters for the refugees,” he explained.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. The latest exodus began on 25 August 2017, when violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, in the western corner of Mynamar, driving more than 723,000 to seek refuge in Bangladesh.
The vast majority reaching Bangladesh are women and children, and more than 40 per cent are under the age of 12. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection.
Nearly all who arrived during the influx have sought shelter in and around the refugee settlements of Kutupalong and Nayapara in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. Some have joined relatives there. The enormous scale of the influx is putting immense pressure on the Bangladeshi host community and existing facilities and services, according to UNHCR.
But, despite the pain and suffering, there is always hope within the 30 camps spread over 30 acres.
Monir Mohamad, 43, was preparing for his wedding party. A vehicle outside his tent had been brightly decorated with flowers and candies and sweets were being distributed to the guests.
“I’m so happy. This is a time to forget a little, about the atrocities in our home against us, and a time for us here,” he said. The Kutupalong refugee settlement has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600,000 people living in an area of just 13 square kilometres, stretching infrastructure and services to their limits.
Over 1.2 million Rohingya are currently living in 30 camps across 6,000 acres in two sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Ukhia sub-district alone hosts over 80 per cent of Rohingya refugees in camps built between and on top of hills that were dense forests just a year ago.