Distributing aid in Bangladesh with a song sung for those fleeing violence in Myanmar

Story by Angela Hill

Haibur Rahman sits on a chair in front of hundreds of people in Burma Para camp in Bangladesh. He pauses for a moment. Someone hands him a megaphone. He takes a deep and begins to sing.
Rahman family in Bangladesh campHe doesn’t have formal training, but the audience is moved. Some hold their heads in their hands, others wipe away tears. Haibur is singing a song of his people and their experiences leaving their home while fleeing violence in Myanmar.
“I sing to let people know that what’s happening to us is too hurtful, people must know.”
His audience is the 750 people who received distribution items from the Red Cross Red Crescent on Nov. 27, 2017.
Every day in the camps people wait in lines to receive the necessities for life in a makeshift settlement. Haibur is among those who received items.
When he finished his song, the distribution begins. One at a time, people walk up to a table where the barcode on their card is scanned and they place a purple finger print next to it, confirming they have been to the distribution.
The cards are carefully tucked away before arms are loaded with tarps, blankets, rope, a hygiene kit, as well as cooking oil and other food items. The hygiene kit contains enough soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste and brushes, and towels for a family of five for a month.
Haibur begins the 15 minute walk back to his shelter. After a minute or two, his older children show up to help carry supplies. That’s when Haibur explains, he is also carrying supplies for his neighbour, a single mother of young children. His family helps hers wherever possible.
Distribution of supplies in Bangladesh campBack at his shelter, his wife and children duck to step outside the square room, partitioned by the same kind of tarps that make the walls and ceiling.
“It’s different between the shelter house and my own house, it’s a big difference,” Haibur said.
This scene plays out over and over across the Cox’s Bazar district as more than 685,000 people, who fled with nothing, get settled into new lives.
“We got from the Red Cross, tarpaulins, biscuits … and I got the blanket. What we got, thank you for this,” said Nurlan, through a translator. The roof says Canada, a tarp donated through the Canadian Red Cross from the Government of Canada.  There are clusters of these tarps across Hakimpara camp because distribution is often done by area.
“Some volunteers came here, to distribute tokens. We got tokens. And we’ve gone to the distribution centre and gotten cards. And we got those things you’re distributing.”
Each family that has receives something expresses gratitude at the support, but they all are quick to talk about how much they miss home.
“I miss my country, but you are helping us and that’s why we’re staying here, but we miss our country and want to go back there,” Nurlan said.
While new communities are forming within the makeshift settlements in Bangladesh, people miss their friends and family members, who have either stayed behind or were separated on the long journeys.
“I don’t know if everyone coming here is a good thing, and I don’t know if everyone going back is good either,” Haribar said.
“I want to tell my relatives in Myanmar, if you’re safe there, stay there.  If you’re not safe there, come here. We are safe here, we have what we need to live here.”
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 685,000 have fled violence in northern Rakhine state before crossing the border into Bangladesh. They are resilient and work to support one another despite missing home and loved ones. These are the Faces of Humanity

Faces of Humanity tells Canada’s humanitarian story through the experiences of Canadian Red Cross aid workers and the people they are supporting, as they respond to disasters and emergencies across the globe. Learn more here.

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