By: Dr. Ola Dunin-Bell
 
Red Cross and Red Crescent personnel in BangladeshOur daily walk into the camp takes us along narrow, twisting paths that constantly change direction as they pass between huts of bamboo and tarps, one immediately up against the next as though competing for the last available piece of land.
 
The rain has stopped for a couple of days and for us the dryer conditions have meant the hike in and out is easier; the paths no longer slick with mud.  For the people living in these huts however, the sun must turn their shelters into ovens. 
 
Each day our walk looks a little different as more structures continue to go up to accommodate the ever-growing population.  And the camp keeps expanding, newcomers cut down trees, making room for more huts that are even further out from roads and the little infrastructure that exists.
 
Today we are at the edge of the settlements.  A week from now the green hills we see will be nothing but huts and dirt. We have located our temporary clinic here.  Having a site allows us to put up a protective structure and so people to know where to go when they need help.  As larger, more permanent facilities get built near by, and as the camp continues to grow beyond the existing borders, we will relocate to where we are needed most.
 
For now, however, the need is great here in this section of the Kutapalong camp that we’ve been working in.  The crowded conditions and poor sanitation have led to high rates of infectious diseases and the lineup of patients always includes many with dehydration from diarrhoea. Respiratory infections are also common in this group, made more frequent (and more dangerous) by the malnutrition that plagues the population. We screen the patients for malnutrition, particularly the vulnerable group of children under the age of five, and refer severe cases to specialized feeding programs. 
 
Although we can treat such problems as pneumonia or diarrhoea, many people come with more complex problems that are beyond what we can manage, but access to specialized services, that we take for granted back at home, is slim-to-none here.  In addition to our days in the mobile clinic, we also provide screening and support to the newest arrivals from Myanmar. Sometimes, hundreds of people cross the border at once, and are sent to the ‘transit centre’ where our team is on hand to screen them for health issues. .
 
A couple of times, this has happened after dark, and they arrive frightened, exhausted, and hungry. With only headlamps, we provide essential medical care and ensure those requiring more advanced treatment are referred to the appropriate places. 
 
In spite of the terrible situation we find ourselves in, not everything is sad.  With the clearer weather there has come an occasional breeze and with it kites have appeared.  The children here are ingenious in how they manage to build these aerodynamic creations out of torn plastic bags and bits of broken off bamboo. One little boy had collected enough string (wrapped around an empty plastic water bottle) that you could barely make out the kite, it was up so high. The way the children smile when their kite takes flight gives me a little hope.
 
Dr. Ola Dunin-Bell was deployed with the Canadian Red Cross mobile field clinic in Bangladesh thanks to support from the Government of Canada.