Nur al Saba, 38, with her grandson Alam, 6. Going out for walks with him was just one of her pleasures when she used to live in Maungdaw village in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Nur and her husband Abdul Kausir, 50, lived together with their two sons and their families. Their village was a nice, convivial place. In the evenings, Nur used to sit down with the other women for a cup of tea and a laugh. The family made a living by cultivating rice paddy and keeping 20 cows and four sheep, but their happy and stable life was shattered when their village came under attack. They left everything they owned behind when they fled.
By AJ Ghani in Cox’s Bazar
More than 621,000 people – most of them women and children – have crossed the Myanmar-Bangladesh border since August 2017. The bulk of the new arrivals are living in makeshift settlements in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district in dire conditions.
Thousands of people continue to arrive every week. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society as it works to provide food, medical care, relief goods and shelter to the new arrivals in Mainnerghona camp and near border crossing areas.
To date, more than 17,200 people have been treated by Red Cross and Red Crescent mobile medical teams, and more than 433,000 people have been reached with food support. But the needs are still immense, and are growing: thousands of people still need basic supplies such as food, malnutrition among children is an extreme concern, and there is a high risk of disease outbreaks in the camps.
IFRC photojournalist AJ Ghani visited Mainnerghona to meet some of the families who made the long journey to safety, and found a strong community forged out of adversity:
Nur helped to deliver baby Sayda by the roadside over a month ago. The child’s mother, Khadija, 19, is a distant relative who used to live on the far side of their village; Khadija was heavily pregnant when they met up on the journey to Bangladesh. Nur kept her close by, as the families found more and more people from their village also waiting to cross the Naf river into Bangladesh. Once they had crossed, Khadija became very sick and Nur had to persuade everyone else to slow down for her until her waters finally broke. The village women formed a circle around her while she was in labour.
Khadija and her husband Rafiq, 22, recall the dramatic day baby Sayda was born by the roadside, after five days of travelling on foot. The family live close to Nur and her family in Mainnerghona camp, and the experiences they have been through together have given them a strong bond. “We all need to look after each other and pray to God that this situation will end soon,” Nur said.
Nur Alam, 65 and his grandson Ibrahim, 4 They also made the journey from a nearby village, sharing the same boat. They are now living close to the other families in Mainnerghona camp, where everyone is helping each other as best they can. Their home for the past couple of months has been a tent and they have been receiving help from humanitarian organisations such as the Bangladesh Red Crescent and IFRC.