This morning we had a very early breakfast then drove to Shah Pori Diip, which is where the refugees come, by boat, after they have arrived in Bangladesh. Most of them have to barter jewellery for the fare or borrow money to pay to get to the mainland. It is tragic to see families with many young children, and all their belongings in just a few rice sacks. One young girl was so traumatised she couldn't speak or communicate in any way.
The tales they all told were consistent - many men being killed and all the villages burnt. These are mostly illiterate and stressed people and we have no reason to doubt their descriptions of systematic eradication by the Burmese military. The pattern seems to be that this started in the north of Rhakine state and is spreading across the whole state to the south. There were 20,000 new refugees yesterday and today we saw many more boatloads, so the violence has, by no means, not stopped.
After arriving at Shah Pori Diip many refugees walked to the shore where they received a hundred taka and a water bottle from Bangladeshi well-wishers. The UNHCR and World Food programme have a staging area where they arrange lorries to take them to be registered at one of the camps.
One Bangladeshi man was suspected of being a radical trying to influence the new arrivals and was then taken away by the army, who were also running this area smoothly.
Anyway we will let the photos speak for themselves.
We then visited the Uchiprang camp, suggested by a doctor we had met, where there are 30,000 people compared to the 80,000 at Kutapolong. A 2km walk along a very muddy and crowded road led to the main camp. Here, the army were also in charge but there is more input from the Rohinga leaders from the old and new camps. We talked to the doctor and his colleagues in the Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic and they were very helpful - especially considering the number of people waiting to be seen. Basically, they believed a simple triangular cloth with a loop on the lower corner to help tie it up would work for the babies. The women's sanitary towel, however, is more complicated and BRAC (an international development organisation based in Bangladesh) are about to do a survey. Shamima, from The Sreepur Village, spoke to several women and we hope to come up with something that will work whilst they wait the news from BRAC.
Now, we are in Cox's Bazaar then we travel again tomorrow when we hope to gather more stories and pictures for you in the next couple of days.
Out of the blue, at the tender age of 13, Chia found herself sitting on a bridal stage, about to marry a man who was 35 years old. Her parents had arranged the match, finding the man from their nearby locality in Bhairab.
He was a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) businessman who occasionally sold vegetables and fruits on the street. Chia's aspirations and youthful dreams were abruptly interrupted by this sudden marriage. Instead of books, she found herself with kitchen utensils in her hands. She went from feeling like a princess to becoming a servant overnight.
Sumi's journey is a testament to her resilience and determination to create a better life for herself and her child. Her success serves as an inspiration to all those facing adversity, reminding us of the transformative power of support, training, and the opportunity to rebuild one's life.