Less than two years after they fled for their lives in one of the largest and fastest displacements of people in history, Rohingya refugees continue to live in overcrowded camps. Victims of persecution for generations, the Rohingya ran from a rapid escalation of violence in Myanmar, escaping by boat to the shores of Bangladesh.
As much as they want to return to their previous lives, they cannot.
The camps now spread across the deforested landscape, a teeming expanse of shanties and lean-tos. In these rugged conditions, where each day brings unforeseen challenges, one thing looms ominously: The imminent return of monsoon season.
Summer brings with it the threat of unpredictable weather. We’ve seen this in the United States, too, where flooding and tornadoes have struck with little warning. In Bangladesh, this year’s weather has been particularly hard on the refugees. In the cramped quarters where they live, cold, damp conditions lead to life-threatening situations.
This past winter already punished the camps with wind and rain—a sign of what may lay ahead during the upcoming monsoon season. In the winter months, families lived in wet conditions that caused the weakest to become desperately sick. A baby named Sabikunnahar was one of those, a fragile newborn who suddenly became ill. Jomila, the baby’s mother, couldn’t sleep at night after she discovered her baby had a high fever and raspy cough. All she could hear was Sabikunnahar’s wailing. She felt hopeless. All she could think about was the possibility of losing her child.
Jomila and her family live in difficult conditions. There are six family members in their home, packed tightly into one confined space. Everyone watched over the baby as she struggled to breathe. After two uncertain days, Jomila rushed Sabikunnahar to a clinic operated by Medical Teams where a doctor diagnosed the baby with severe pneumonia. The doctor immediately administered medicine through a breathing apparatus. Shortly afterward, Sabikunnahar’s breathing improved.
Pneumonia is devastating. But Sabikunnahar survived this deadly disease. Your compassion makes these happy endings possible. It relieves some of the stress, anxiety and heartache that mothers like Jomila feel. Knowing that a clinic of doctors and nurses is nearby, ready to treat an infant’s deadly disease, puts their minds at ease.
But with the harsh winter fresh in people’s memories, concerns over monsoon season persist despite a recent dry spell that’s caused a shortage of water.
The heads of the UN’s refugee, relief and migration agencies have called for sustained support for refugees and host communities. Thousands of rescue workers are taking part in drills to prepare for landslides and flooding. Knowing there are families like Jomila’s, Medical Teams International is preparing for monsoon conditions. Especially during the bleakest times, the refugees who call these camps home need life-saving care. They need to know we remember them.
Rise to the challenge: Remember the Rohingya as the season changes. Keep Sabikunnahar, Jomila and other refugees in your prayers this summer, and know that they see your expressions of love whenever they visit a clinic.