By International Organization for Migration
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct 30 (IOM) – You could not see it in their faces and they could no longer physically feel it but Mohammed and Jameelah’s pain was consuming their minds – in the memories of what they had lost.
The young Rohingya family had crossed the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh after their house and everything that they owned were burned to the ground.“Our house burnt in front of us as we watched helplessly. We had to run for our lives,” said Mohammed, as his eyes started to betray him by subtly revealing his suffering.
In the violence and the chaos of fleeing Northern Rakhine State, Mohammed and Jameelah lost nearly everyone that they held dear.
The family was once four strong but the eldest daughter never made it to safety in the makeshift refugee settlements, which mushroomed at almost miraculous speed in Cox’s Bazar on land that was forested just two months ago.
It took the family four days and three nights to reach Bangladesh by boat.
“We could not bring anything with us and had to just come as we were. We could not even bring any money.”
The boat left them at the no man’s land border area between Myanmar and Bangladesh. They stayed there for a while, as they were not allowed to cross straight away. Along with some 7,000 other refugees, they waited for days with no food or clean drinking water on muddy land banks in between paddy fields.
“I had nothing to feed my baby. We struggled to find water on our way here but now we get water from this well.”
Mohammed and Jameelah’s emergency shelter is right next to an IOM-built deep well, where they can access clean drinking. Having only lived in Kutapalong refugee settlement for two weeks, the well was there before the family arrived.
“We cook meals with the water and it is good to drink. I can also wash my baby’s clothes.”
In just two months, over 600,000 refugees sought safety inland ill-equipped to host them. Sources of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities were few and far between. IOM and partners are working to ensure greater access to quality services through the building and maintaining of wells, latrines and dams, as well as, water trucking. IOM also provides hygiene kits to Rohingya refugees and informs them on good sanitation practices in the settlements to prevent disease outbreaks.
“It gets crowded. Sometimes, we have to stand for a long time to a bucket of water”
thousands now have access, the work is far from done and the quality of the water and sanitation services provided is vital to preventing disease outbreaks.
IOM’s water, sanitation and hygiene activities in the Cox’s Bazar’s makeshift settlements are funded by the governments of South Korea and Canada, the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.
Words and Photos: Olivia Headon
Video: Timothy Wolfer
UN Migration Agency