As Salamm Alaikum, Guess what? Its raining. Don’t remember the last time it was dry.
Suzanne and I are still here in Cox’s Bazar trying to assist the almost one million Rohingya refugees. We’ve partnered with a local NGO called The Hope Foundation and they’ve been wonderful to us, supporting us and letting us do whatever we want.
Our “normal” day goes a little like this. Up early and squeeze into an ambulance full of 14 Hope Foundation workers and take the 2 hour bouncy commute to the Rohingya camp. Suzanne usually starts her day seeing patients in the field hospital that Hope is currently building. A couple of days ago, Suzanne and 3 other Bengali doctors saw almost 400 patients! In the afternoon she has been training the young and new midwives on ultrasound. 2 days ago, Suzanne probably saved a 34 day old babies life. She said it was the sickest baby she’s ever seen that was not coding. Being the only E.R. doctor around, she knew exactly what to do, as the other staff were lallygagging around confused. A long story short, she ended up running through the mud, through traffic, while holding this poor baby taking it to a hospital with critical care services. As you know, she rocks.
I have been testing wells for water quality (some good, some bad) then talking to the Majhee, the head man of a community, and having him gather the other community elders of particular blocks of this vast refugee camp. Then giving a water filtration class (the Sawyer filters that some of you helped purchase) to these men so that they can take and use the filter back in their sector of the camp for themselves and their neighbors.
Yesterday, I facilitated a training for Hope’s Community Health Workers. These CHW are the first line of defense and offense for the health of the camp as they walk around specific areas each day to promote services and check on the many pregnant women, trying to get them to come to our field hospital (still, 70-90% of births are done at home). We had a class on disease transmission, water filter construction and distribution, tippy tap construction, and a dehydration class (how to make SSS’s. Salt, Sugar, Solution). All of this is in hopes that they’ll use this little knowledge for themselves and the community they serve. Then I had another class with the midwives in the afternoon. I haven’t talked that much in maybe…ever:)
Today, I scheduled another training for the other half of the Community Health Workers but there’s a local election and we’re advised by the authorities not to travel as the chances of civil unrest is high. Worries of gun violence has been talked about, so we’re here stuck in our Cox’s Bazar hotel room as the downpour of rain continues. Thus, the extra time to write a little not to you. Plus, I feel sick today, civil unrest couldn’t have come on a better day:)
Cox’s Bazar, the worlds longest beach, is an interesting place. It’s the Cancun or Miami’s South Beach of Bangladesh, where Bengali’s come to vacation (except everybody on the beach and in the water are fully dressed in their sari’s or burkas, nobody can swim, huge packs of fighting dogs that ignore the roaming beach goats but play with the wild horses, if the call to prayer doesn’t wake me up these dogs will at 5:30 a.m., the amount of garbage that’s thrown to the wind, and the only thing hotter than the weather is the spicy food, but other than that,.. just like Miami:). Its very surreal to be in a refugee city during the day to come back to a vacation town at night. Suzanne and I are staying in a modest but comfortable hotel, which usually has electricity, some WiFi,… It’s such a change for us as in past trips to Bangladesh we’ve slept on the floor of very simple rural houses with no electricity while getting eaten by mosquitos.
Working with the Rohingya has been many things, but the first word that comes to mind is sad. These poor people who’ve been quarantined for decades in Myanmar, have now escaped their homeland and even though they’re not in danger of military attacks, they’re still quarantined in this refugee camp. They don’t have their farm animals, their fields of crops, not to mention many of their loved ones. They’re crammed together with no space to do anything, just sit and be sad. A lot of them feel cooped up and angry, like last week when a young man with a machete took a swipe at the Tom Tom I was in as we were driving by. I’ve never seen so many naked kids in my life, as I’m sure there’s no money for things such as diapers, but even kids as old as 12, running around in the mud trying to entertain themselves. The mosques (just a bamboo building with a tin roof) are full of men sitting and lying around all day doing nothing. They can’t even collect fire wood for cooking as everything in this part of Bangladesh is soaking wet. The women rarely leave their little shack house. The stares from the women and men are almost too much to handle. Never a smile, never.
Suzanne and I feel overwhelmed. How can the two of us make a positive difference to so many people? The only answer we see is to teach and train the Bengali staff that we’re working with. Give a man a fish or teach him how to fish. This way the doctors and midwives that Suzanne is training and working with can continue to assist long after we’re gone. The same for the Community Health Workers that I’m working with. We’ve had a flight booked for the Middle East in about 10 days from now, but we both feel useful here in Bangladesh and are in the process of extending our stay.
Thank you again to all of you who’ve contributed to our little fundraiser. The funds are solely being used to help some of the most vulnerable people on earth.
Peace be unto you.