All photos taken by A J Ghani.
Mohammad Ali, 26, carrying the packages of Red Cross Red Crescent relief goods through the camp to where his extended family is living. He received a tarpaulin, rope, dry foods and blankets for everyone in his family. He lives some distance away from the IFRC distribution point and his elderly father and other family members are too weak to carry the goods all the way back to their tent. So he shoulders the load. It’s been almost two months now since they arrived in the Burmapara camp. When they crossed the Naf river by boat they were all together, but when they reached Bangladesh, the family got separated into three different groups. Ali lives with parents and two of his brothers in the same camp but in separate tents.
Mohammad Ali’s mother and his niece are delighted with the goods he’s brought with him. The family all used to live together in one big compound, including Mohammad Ali’s six brothers, but since they had to flee from their home in Rakhine state, almost everything in their lives has changed. When violence engulfed the village next to theirs, the family decided that it was time to leave. They didn’t even have time to take their valuables with them. Arriving on the Bangladeshi side after a night-time journey, they had to wait for three days without food or water before border guards allocated them to the camp.
Mohammad Ali showing and distributing the relief among his family members. The big family was just one pillar of Ali’s life back home in Rakhine. He and his younger brother Saiful, 24, used to work in a garage and he was a popular young guy in the village. “I used to hang out with my friends in a local teashop after work. But nowadays, there’s nothing to do and I miss my old life and friends.” Ali has managed to locate his friends in their different camps, but the feeling isn’t the same.
Saiful, 3, Mohammad Ali’s son is very happy with the biscuits he’s found in the package of dry foods and loses no time in claiming the whole packet for himself. While children acclimatize themselves to the different reality of the camp, many of their parents can’t help but worry about the future. When questions about it come up, Ali’s normally cheerful face clouds over and his voice becomes hesitant. “Even if I am able to go back, how can I start again with nothing, with the house burned down, the shop looted and no money left?,” Just what the future holds is something he prefers not think about for now.
Fatima Akhter, Mohammad Ali’s 68-year-old mother is happy with the blanket she received. With winter nearing, she says it will help keep her warm. When the family first arrived, they didn’t even have money to buy a tarpaulin or bamboo, so they had to squeeze into a shelter with a group of other people. Later, Ali managed to get some money together to buy bamboo and a tarpaulin. Now that Ali has received a package of Red Cross Red Crescent relief goods, including another tarpaulin and rope, he can make a better tent and the family will have the blankets for warmth. “This is the most useful relief package we’ve received so far,” he says.