Since August 2017, over 700,000 people have settled near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar. As part of its humanitarian response to this complex crisis, Red Cross Red Crescent opened a field hospital with support from Canadian Red Cross to provide medical care in the makeshift camps.

By Tamara Begin, a Canadian medical logistician working in Bangladesh

 
Red Cross Red Crescent field hospitalI was lucky enough to arrive at the Red Cross field hospital located near Cox’s Bazar on October 16, 2018, on the one-year anniversary of its opening. As I was given a tour of the hospital and base camp where I would spend the next month, I saw many Red Cross aid workers and local staff excitedly preparing for the celebration that was to take place that evening. 

Later that night, I felt a bit like an outsider looking in as I listened to the speeches made by the local Bangladesh Red Crescent staff to commemorate the occasion. I heard so much pride in the voices of the local nurses, doctors, translators and technical staff, as they described their experiences over the past year. They spoke of helping to clean the site and build the field hospital, of treating their first patients and of watching the hospital grow and change over the past year. They talked of the friendships formed with aid workers from around the world who had rotated through the hospital (some several times) and of the patients they had helped together. One of the translators, an amateur photographer, had even made a slideshow of photos he had taken over the past year. As I watched the photos scroll by, I was struck by the fact that it was the local staff who were constant while aid workers from many countries came and went. The evening wrapped up with a rousing rendition of “We Are the World,” performed by a swaying group of international and local staff with their arms wrapped around each other.

Makeshift campsA few days later, I visited the camp for the first time and was finally able to grasp the enormity of the crisis affecting the more than 700,000 people who had fled violence in Myanmar. Flimsy shacks with tarpaulin roofs held down by rods of bamboo stretched as far as the eye could see. I could only imagine what it would be like to try to weather a typhoon in these conditions. However, more than a year after the massive influx of people, the camps were beginning to look more like communities with drainage ditches, clean water points and tiny schools filled with boisterous children calling “Hello, how are you?” as we passed.

Now, almost 4 weeks later, I don’t feel like an outsider anymore. I have formed lasting friendships with my local and international colleagues and feel the same pride in the field hospital that they spoke of on my first night. I greatly admire my Bangladesh Red Crescent colleagues who have been here since the beginning and will continue to work tirelessly long after we are gone. I am honoured to have played a role, no matter how small, in this worthwhile project.  


RELATED POSTS