Rainbow marks powerful moment at a camp in Bangladesh

Sandra Damota, a Canadian psychosocial worker currently in Bangladesh, shares some of her experiences working as a member of an international Red Cross Red Crescent team helping thousands of people living in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing their homes due to violence in Myanmar.

Sandra Damota, a psychosocial worker in Bangladesh with her fellow Norwegian PSS worker

Sandra Damota (right), a Canadian psychosocial worker in Bangladesh with her fellow Norwegian colleague.

That [photo] was actually a really powerful moment as we prepared to support the Canadian mobile health team with the arrival of about 2,500 refugees into the transit camp from the border. We had been waiting a number of hours for them to arrive and were working out final details for the psychosocial and medical triage areas. With the additional complications heavy rains and the mud have brought the communities over the last few months, we find ourselves constantly hoping for an end to the season. Yesterday had been a generally clear all day when suddenly there was a light evening drizzle. We looked up searching for the dark clouds and instead saw this, a perfect rainbow. The rain stopped, the sky darkened and the first buses arrived. It was a moment of peace before the chaos.

 There is certainly an enormous need for psychosocial support here. We met a 10-year-old girl in the transit camp, who we noticed was alone and brought her over to the triage area to see if we could find out who she was with. She mentioned that she had been separated from her three younger siblings and the neighbour she was travelling with somewhere in the crowds as the lines formed at the camp.  She told us that she had watched both of her parents be killed and one of her neighbours had brought them with her. We were able to connect her with the UNHCR child protection worker in the camp who will help locate her neighbour, but unfortunately these are some common stories that we have been hearing.

"What these people have witnessed, before and after leaving their homes, is unimaginable."

We’ve seen a number of people who haven’t spoken in weeks, and are not able to eat since losing loved ones. We have entire families whom accompany their loved ones to the hospital for treatment in fear of being separated again, so we try to spend some time with the children and their siblings in the pediatric ward. 

Canadian Red Cross CEO Conrad Sauvé was recently in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh where he describes the child-friendly spaces set up as part of psychosocial support provided to children who have experienced trauma and are now living in the camps.  

Canadians can support this work through a donation to the Myanmar Refugee Appeal. This work is made possible in part thanks to support from the Government of Canada.

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