One in almost a million

By Diana Coulter, a Canadian aid worker currently in Bangladesh

Nur Kiyas and her father Mohammed SayedIt’s been three months since waves of people started arriving in Bangladesh by the thousands. Now, at least 621,000 people have fled violence in Myanmar since August 25, joining more than 300,000 who left earlier. That’s almost one million people. But nine-year-old Nur Kiyas doesn’t want to be just one in million.

Nur, pictured here with her father Mohammed Sayed, was terribly weak, malnourished and severely dehydrated when she finally rested two days ago in her father’s lap at the transit camp where people first arrive in Bangladesh. After a quick check, doctors and nurses from the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) promptly transferred Nur to the IFRC field hospital nearby.

But Nur’s father, Mohammed Sayed, 40, doesn’t want people to see weakness in his daughter or his family. They are not just people in a crowd, and they are very strong.
Sayed explained the family barely ate or drank during their 13-day journey “through mountains, up and down, and across muddy fields. It was very, very hard for us.”

Then, to cross the river into Bangladesh, he paid a boatman about 250,000 Burmese Kyat ($240 CDN) for his family, he said. It was a small fortune for a farmer, his wife and six children.
“Sometimes people shared their food, and sometimes not.”

They left Myanmar, he said, because part of their village was burned. Their home was left standing but they could not move around, get to markets, or continue to work. So finally, they had no choice but to leave, he said.

“Now we are here, and I don’t know yet how we will live but we must,” said Sayed.

A day after admission to the field hospital, Nur was up walking again and feeling better, as her family was preparing to start anew in the crowded makeshift settlements.

To date, with the support of Canadian Red Cross, its donors, the Government of Canada, the IFRC, and national societies from about 30 countries, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) continues to provide aid to people in the settlements - including shelter supplies like bamboo, blankets and tarps, emergency food relief to more than 433,000 people, and health services to about 23,000 patients at the 60-bed field hospital, while mobile medical teams hike daily to remote areas of the camps.

Still, this is not a permanent solution for families like Sayed’s.
“We miss our home,” he says. “But we must always keep trying.”
Canadians can help by donating to our Myanmar Refugee Appeal

This work is made possible in part thanks to support from the Government of Canada. 

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