Saturday, July 9, 2011

Refugees struggle after huts destroyed by heavy winds

Azara (alias) Lal Buri, the fifty six year-old wife of the late Abdullah, continues to struggle to survive in the Kutupalong makeshift camp since her hut, built with bushes and plastic, was destroyed by heavy winds on May 20.

"I and my 90 year-old mother, Gul Somba, lived in a small hut without support from any INGO (international Non-government organization), the UNHCR or Bangladesh authority, nearly three years near Kutupalong official (refugee)camp," she told Kaladan News in an interview.

"Fifteen years ago, my husband died from fever in Buthidaung, area No.2, of Arakan State. I have two sons. They live with their family members outside the camp so they can work," she said.

"I take care of us by begging for rice and if I don't beg each day, I have to starve. Today, I could not cook rice in the morning," she said.

"I can't build the hut again because I have no money to buy plastic and bamboo. Now, I am starving because I can't go to outside the hut to beg and also my body is in pain. (She was injured when the hut was destroyed.) It makes me cry because rainy season is coming, so I may have to stay in the bushes," Lal Buri said.

Many huts were destroyed by heavy rain and wind at that time, and like Lal Buri, most refugees can't afford to rebuild.

Another refugee, Md. Ismail, a 28 year-old daily laborer said his hut was also destroyed by heavy rain and winds. He can't afford to rebuild his home either.

"We haven't received any help to build our huts from any quarter yet," one community member said. He said refugees who are widows, like Lal Buri, have even more difficulty to rebuild their huts.

"We have been living in the Kutupalong makeshift over three years, but we don't get any support from the UNHCR," he said.

"We get only basic medical treatment from MSF (Holland) and also get sanitation from Hunger for Action (ACF)."

A school teacher said his family all crowd into a very small hut, struggling to survive without support from any aid agency because the family is still not recognized officially as refugees by the UNHCR and Bangladeshi authorities.

"We are very afraid about the coming rainy season because refugee children will face pneumonia and odima."

He also said that over 40,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees live in and around the Kutuplaong makeshift, camp without legal status.

"So, we would like to request the UNHCR and Bangladesh authority rebuild our huts as soon as possible."

Similarly, a refugee community leader from Leda camp said the situation at Leda Tal is awful as well because many huts there also suffered damage during the heavy rain and wind.

"The huts are no longer strong or sturdy as they are all at least three years old. They were built only with bamboo and plastic sheets," he said.

"Now, some shacks (huts) have collapsed completely and the refugees fear for their lives while they are sleeping during the night. We fear for our young children if heavy wind blows in the daytime or night. Every shack is getting rain water inside when the rain falls."

There are more than 12,000 Rohingya refugees in the camp. The Leda Refugee Camp is managed by Muslim Aid UK, which also provides healthcare programs. The NGO 'Solidarity' is providing sanitation in the camp.
The refugees work for their survival at different jobs. Some refugee women are facing sexual harassment by locals while collecting firewood for their survival and to support their family, from a forest far from the camp.

The widow, Lal Buri, is urging the international community and UNHCR to help her and all the refugees, before it's too late.

Date: July 8, 2011

Source: Burma News International

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