“ The infinite loop of pain”
(Original articles was written by Midwife Activity Manager Krystal So at a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and edited by our copy writers.)
A torrential rain hit as I was writing this journal, the communication system is spreading the news of a Category 12 Storm alert. A nearby refugee camp got hit by landslide, houses collapsed. The loud noise in the evening was gunfire in the refugee camp, everyone seemed to be used to it.
The Rohingya people came here 5 years ago. Today, there are still 1 million people living in this refugee camp, one of the largest in the world. This area used to be a forest, having trees, elephants and all kinds of other animals and plants.
Environment and hygiene of this refugee camp are worse than I expected. All the shabby bamboo shelters cramped in a narrowed area. There is no facility inside these buildings, sultry, and stuffy in the summer. Rohingya families lives in this environment everyday coping with a stench of sewage, along with regional epidemic outbreak, safety and refugees’ emotional problem.
I am the Sexual and Reproductive Health Department Head of the area, in charge of the management of Hospital on Hill and Goyalmara Mother and Children Hospital, including services like maternity wards, obstetrics and gynecology wards and clinics, family planning, sexual violence support and regional outreach services, etc. Besides management, staff training and 24/7 on-call for maternity and gynecology wards, my daily duties also included home visits in refugee camp, education and promotional activities.
This is my first mission in MSF. Despite the challenges, “surprises” and learnings, I am grateful for having a great team to tackle all the difficulties together.
One of the challenges here is that the home birth rate here is very high and giving birth in refugee camp is very dangerous. Without professional midwifes and equipment, in case of emergency occurs during childbirth, such as excessive blood loss or respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), both the mother and baby will die. We visit the families one by one and noticed most of the roads are rough and difficult to get through. We arranged for ambulances and traditional birth attendants to help transfer the maternities to the hospital.
I still remember we visited Fatima* in the refugee camp. When she arrived here a month ago, she had to go to the far end of the camp to get clean water at a dark night for an emergency, and she was sexually assaulted and violently treated on her way. Lack of sufficient clean water sources and sexual assault are only some of the problems the refugees faces every day. She had a miscarriage, we were able to treat her and stop the bleeding, as well as provide psychological counseling and family planning support. Today when we visited her again, there were still some bare parts on her head, but the wounds on her limbs are mostly recovered.
Fatima’s father told us, he doesn’t even dare to go out now, because of gun shots being heard recently and people assaulting others with knife and setting fire. The whole family cannot sleep well, he showed us the psychiatric medication given by the MSF out-patient clinic to help him improve his sleep.
These living humans are suffering from the endless loop of pain and tragedies.
If you ask them where home is, they will answer Myanmar. If you ask them who they are, they will say, “Arakan.”. They were not stateless, they used to have their nationality, community and culture, citizenship, and civil rights. However, now in the refugee camp without international recognition, they lost their citizenship, no legal status and just wait without dignity.
We should all believe that every human being deserves the same treatment, the same respect, and the same chance for medical assistance. In these endless painful tragedies, let us give our support to relieve, cure and heal all the wounds.
Perhaps one day, we will have the ability and chance to put an end to all these tragedies.
*Name changed to protect patient’s identity
MSF in Bangladesh
MSF first provided medical assistance in Bangladesh in 1972. We sent doctors to the country to support medical projects run by a range of charities, including hospitals in Khulna and northwest Bangladesh, and a blood bank in Dhaka. We currently manage 10 health facilities in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, covering in-patient and out-patient services such as emergency and intensive care, pediatrics, obstetrics, sexual and reproductive health, etc. Recently we provide more treatments for skin infections, water-borne diseases, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Our team also provides mental healthcare to the Rohingya in the camp.
Solidarity Run for the Rohingya refugees
To raise the awareness of the plight of the Rohingya refugees, and to provide a platform for the public to experience the life-saving journey of MSF field workers on the front line, we launched “On Track to Save – MSF Virtual Orienteering Competition 2022”. Participants will act as field workers on an assignment in Bangladesh bringing humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees. There are 60 checkpoints and each checkpoint has a “frontline mission”. It requires cooperation and communication between teammates to plan a route and strategies to get the maximum points within 2 hours.