“Please give us something for our children”, pleaded Yasmin, 25 and Farida, 15, in their broken voices - they couldn’t say any more than this.
It was at the end of the first day of our Rohingya refugee assessment visit at Teknaf (South of Bangladesh), whilst trying to get network coverage for our mobile phones, that we met Yasmin and Farida who came to us begging for help. Our teammate, Zafor, is an interpreter and the language spoken in Rohingya and the Teknaf area are the same.
Yasmin described to us how they survived the days leading up to crossing the border:
“At midnight, we arrived at Shah Porir Dwip (Bangladesh) from Myanmar. We bartered our gold jewellery (earrings) so we could cross the river by boat. We had not slept for the last three nights and had little food. The past few days before we arrived here, we ate dry food that we brought from home or borrowed from others. Our children, aged eight and two, have not eaten anything since last night,” said Yasmin.
Later, Farida narrated her horrific experience. Her father was slaughtered and her husband was gunned down by the Myanmar army right in front of her face. The same thing happened to Yasmin’s family. Both women, along with their children, fled from the spot with the sole aim to cross the border and reach a safer place.
In the morning, they started to walk towards a big camp but because of the extreme amount of people, they lost their group. They are now in this camp and today they went to get the relief which is distributed to the newcomers. But it was not to be. “Those families who have male members are managing to get most of the relief. They are physically much stronger,” said Yasmin.
Like Yasmin and Farida, many expecting Rohingya women, especially those whose husbands went missing or got killed, are in urgent need of food and medical care. Farida said, “I have nothing to say. I just want some food for my young child and me, some shelter and then maybe I will start thinking.”
After hearing their stories Pat offered them some food and they took it thankfully. We also played some time with their children. Then we told them how to get to the big camp.
In any humanitarian emergency, the risk of gender-based violence increases significantly which puts women and girls at a heightened risk. So, we must emphasise the importance of saving women, girls and children from this most inhuman crisis.