People from across Bangladesh have joined hands with the locals of Teknaf and Ukhiya to help the refugees who have crossed the border since the latest chapter in the Rohingya crisis began to unfold on August 25.
Teknaf and Ukhiya residents said they are helping the refugees in any way they can. Some are bringing food and water while others are helping new arrivals to reach nearby camps.
Local youth groups have been giving juice, dry food and water to Rohingya who had taken shelter on the Shah-Puri Island after crossing the Naf River several days ago. Later, the locals sent them to Teknaf, where they were greeted by friendly residents.
Jan-e-Alam, a businessman, was distributing biscuits at Teknaf bus terminal on Sunday. “I came here from Sitakunda on Thursday to help the refugees with money and dry food,” he said.
“I learned about their plight on my way to Cox’s Bazar on Thursday. I had Tk10,000 with me. I immediately came to Teknaf and distributed the money among the refugees and asked my family to wire me more money,” Alam added.
“If we fail to show compassion, then we are no better than Myanmar,” he said. “Not willing to help them is cruelty. I also paid bus fares for several Rohingya families, as some of their elderly members were unable to walk.”
The Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless community and one of the most persecuted minorities. Myanmar denies them citizenship and calls them illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Most have arrived in Bangladesh after walking for days. They are still traumatised after losing everything, but the kind gestures of locals are giving them a semblance of comfort.
Many of the newly arrived Rohingya have built shacks in Balukhali Dhal hilly area in Ukhiya and Unchi Prang in Teknaf.
Political organisations, public representatives, professionals, businessmen, NGOs and students of local educational institutions have also been extending helping hands.
Chittagong University students distributed food and oral saline in Balukhali Dhal on Sunday. “The Rohingya have nowhere to go so we must help them in any way we can,” Habibur Rahman, a CU student, said.
A small group of youths were seen distributing clothes to Rohingya in Ukhiya’s Palang Khali. They said they had came from Cox’s Bazar with items donated by their family and friends.
“Many Rohingya escaped with nothing but the clothes on their back,” said Razzak, one of the group. “Wet clothes could cause fever and diseases. We are trying to provide Rohingya women and children dry clothes to keep them a bit safe.”
Moved by the plight of the Rohingya, Md Forkan Hossain, a man in his sixties, brought his entire family from Cox’s Bazar to distribute dry food and juice.
“No one leaves their ancestral home by choice. If we do not help the Rohingya, who will?” he asked. “How would I feel if my grandchildren had suffered like them? I see my own children and my grandchildren when I look at the faces of the children of Rohingya refugees.”
More than 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Myanmar army began its latest anti-insurgency operation in Rakhine following attacks on dozens of border posts and an army base by Rohingya militants.
The new refugees have joined the estimated 400,000 Rohingya already believed to be staying in Bangladesh.
Rohingya and rights groups have accused the Myanmar army of burning down villages, indiscriminate murder, and multiple rapes, but Naypyitaw has rejected the allegations.
The article was first published on Bangla Tribune