October 24, 2017 | By United Sikhs
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh (United Sikhs): The mass exodus of the Rohingya refugees escaping persecution in Myanmar has reached critical levels and refugee camps are at capacity. The new arrivals struggle to find space and support in the overcrowded camp as they join the half-a-million Rohingya refugees before them.
“Over 200,000 refugees have arrived in the past week alone,” observes Jatin Singh, United Sikhs Team volunteer, “The camp volunteers and staff are struggling to feed, clothe, and house the refugees that are arriving. They need more help than ever before.”
On a small, dirt road, thousands of Rohingya refugees shuffle towards the beginnings of Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, the first safe haven they encounter since leaving their homes behind in Myanmar. The torrential rains have left the area flooded and dreary; but the line of refugees stretches for miles, slowly moving forward. Many in the queue had traveled for days, mostly by foot, carrying whatever they could on their shoulders.
As people walk closer to the camp, United Sikhs volunteers are stationed at the entrance to meet the new arrivals with warm meals. Often, it is the first warm meal the people have received since beginning their arduous trek towards safety. For a small moment, hunched shoulders, burdened by the trauma of displacement, straighten and joy spreads as they share a warm meal.
“I had finally arrived to a refugee camp a few weeks ago. Little did I know that I’d face the same troubles here,” a Rohingya woman shared with Lakhwinder Kaur, a licensed counselor volunteer, “As soon as I arrived, a group of us was taken by men. We were told to huddle into a circle. The men were shot and the women were taken elsewhere. If you could run, you ran. I was one of the lucky ones. I escaped again and came [to Kutupalong]. I hadn’t received food in days.”
The journey into Bangladesh is not without danger. Many adult and children alike have been injured and traumatized while trying to escape the violence of Myanmar.
United Sikhs team of trained medical volunteers recognized the escalating situation and were able to set up medical clinics and mental health counseling sessions all over the camp. As our team treats nearly 200+ patients every day, the true aftermath of the crisis is revealed: some have suffered bullet wounds; many are dehydrated and malnourished; sexual violence against the Rohingyan women is rampant.
While the wounds of this forced migration are deep, our medical volunteers are ever ready to lend support. The counseling sessions have revealed many painful and gruesome stories of the hardships the Rohingya people have had to endure. These sessions are critical to helping the most vulnerable, women and children especially, heal from the violence they have suffered.
“We are touching the lives of thousands of people every day; but we should have reaching every single refugee in the camp” says Dr. Harmeet Singh, a volunteer who has set up medical camps, “Our operations are making a difference and providing hope to many. We need more volunteers, more support so that more people can be helped.”
Currently, camp conditions are deplorable as the influx of refugees strains resources. Without stable shelter, food, water, and sanitation, camp operations are only a fraction of what needs to be done. The refugees need stability and support immediately. Our team is rising to the challenge to provide aid in their journey. With the Guru’s support, we can continue to save lives and empower them to live with dignity.