Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The 11 photos that bring to life the Rohingya crisis for me

The camp is a sprawling mess of  hundreds of thousands of dusty makeshift shelters set atop hilly, shaky terrain.

"When words fail me I shall choose to focus with photographs.”

So the truth is that this week as I stood in the middle of the world’s both largest and fastest growing refugee camp, word’s failed me. Something, that if we know each other, you'll know is very, very rare. Wink Wink.
See, I was feeling a lot of pressure to get some social media-esque videos up as fast as I could for my bosses (and for all of you) and yet every time I turned on my iPhone to show you what I saw and to try and explain it, I just couldn’t. Couldn't find the words. 

After all, how does one put into words what it feels like to sit in a bamboo hut in almost 40-degree heat, as you listen to a mum bravely telling you her story of survival from genocide? Or when you see a little child barely able to sit up because of malnutrition? Or a father left to raise five daughters after their mother was brutally killed?

Of course the journalist I was hosting from Newshub, TV3, Michael Morrah did a wonderful job of putting words to it all. Here’s five stories from this week that we made while on the field together that played on 6pm news on New Zealand’s national news network.
Please click on the hyperlinks under each Story to see the clip

Earlier this year, you may remember I found myself here at the height of this crisis, watching it unfold. Children and adults alike were traumatised, dehydrated and exhausted. They stared into a void, without even the energy to cry.  What I saw last week was that this crisis is not over. People really are in a desperate state and we need to stay with them, to keep caring. These people are not allowed to build a permanent home, not allowed to work, not allowed to send their children to high school, not allowed to even leave the camps. If they choose to go back to Myanmar, the persecution would most certainly continue.

So this is my little way of bringing this crisis to life through photographs. Trying to show you why this means so much to me. These are the images (taken in April and last week) that bring it to life the most for me. I’ve written a wee caption to explain why.

I hope you see what I see. 

The scale of this crisis is enormous. Close to a million people live within 10 square kilometers. 
Modena shared with me how she lost her husband and is now raising 8 daughters by herself. She feels sad that she is prohibited by the government to work and so therefore cant provide them with pretty dresses and chocolates on Eid (Muslim festival happening last week) because they have no money. Pictured below is Modena with her youngest daughter.

 I cant imagine what it must be like for a mother to have to throw faeces down a rubbish filled embankment mere meters from your house. The overcrowded conditions of the camp mean that sanitation is a huge challenge.

I think it's the kids in the camps that capture my heart the most. They deserve toys, safe places to play, a roof that wont leak and enough food to eat. And yet, that's a luxury. 

One boy I met called Hamid is 19 years old. On the way his best friend and brother were shot. Shortly after, he heard the sound of a baby crying in a village that had just been decimated. He found a five-month-old baby girl amid the rubble. Together they now live in the camps. Hamid was a star student in one of Tearfund's projects English classes. Now employable, after finishing the course, the little money he makes as a volunteer sustains him, his family and this little girl.  
I remember this young girl telling me that every time she eats rice she cant help but think of her Daddy. He loved rice, just like her, and now he's dead and so is her brother and rice could never taste the same again.

At a nutrition clinic for malnourished children I spotted this sweetheart cuddled up next to her Mama. Malnutrition in the camp is now at emergency levels and so this center is a lifeline for her, and her Mum.

Reflecting on my week in the camps, two things give me hope. The incredible determination and resilience of the Rohingya people and the growing community of Tearfund supporters getting stirred up to stand with these people. Please consider making a donation to help this critical work continue.


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