Photo: Dildar and hew newborn son. Kathleen Prior for Action Against Hunger.
Danny Glenwright, our Executive Director, is in Bangladesh. He’s at the Kutupalong refugee camp, now one of the largest refugee camps in the world. He’s sending us daily photo and video updates from Bangladesh, which we’re sharing here. Check back daily to see his dispatches.
UPDATES FROM BANGLADESH: DAY ONE
“At one point, teams from Action Against Hunger were feeding as many as 90,000 people per day. That’s a city the size of Lethbridge, Alberta, or Nanaimo, BC, every single day. And that’s thanks to the support of donors like you in Canada.”
“It’s hard to express the scale of the crisis, it’s heartbreaking,” he says, but “what’s also clear is the tremendous impact Canadians have had on improving the conditions and ensuring children are being treated for malnutrition.”
UPDATES FROM BANGLADESH: DAY TWO
After sending us this video, Danny wrote to us to tell us about just how awful the situation is. “They’re fleeing rape and the slaughter of their families,” he told us, “families have lost their homes, women have lost their husbands, children have lost their parents, it’s heartbreaking.”
A couple months back, we shared the story of Dildar Begum, a Rohingya mother who gave birth while feeling violence in Myanmar on foot. Unable to wait any longer, she gave birth to her newborn son hidden in the bushes in the no man’s land between Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh. We first learned of Dildar when she made it to our malnutrition treatment center. Too focused on survival, she hadn’t yet given her son a name.
Danny’s email continued. He’s on a mission, he says: He wants to find Dildar. “I have to find her,” he told us. “I just can’t stop thinking about how heartbreaking her story was, I need to know if she’s okay, if we were able to help her, and what she finally named her newborn son.”
Kutupalong camp is now home to over 700,000 displaced people. It’s a needle in a haystack… but we will keep you posted.
UPDATES FROM BANGLADESH: DAY THREE
Danny sent us an update on his search for Dildar, a mother we helped a few months back:
“Armed only with her photo and her name, I visited another one of our relief centres where I met with Raihan. Our centres normally support registered beneficiaries, he told me, but the influx happened so quickly, and the need was so immense, they now serve all beneficiaries. You can see how many children are running around in the background, but compared to the clogged and congested alleyways of the camp, it’s an oasis. In the video, he tells me about the work that they do, and the challenges they’re facing, but in spite of said challenges, the work they are doing is amazing. I had asked him about Dildar, but he didn’t recognize her. Seeing the number of people here, I can understand why.”
UPDATES FROM BANGLADESH: DAY FOUR
“I might have bitten off more than I can chew.”
We received another update from Danny on his search for Dildar, a mother we helped a few months back. Today’s news wasn’t so good:
“I’ve spent the day following up on some leads that took me all across Kutupalong. It’s so difficult to convey how large it is, there are just so many people here; she could be anywhere. The good news is that the team is doing some fantastic work. I visited another treatment centre and saw our team in action, you’ll see in the video. Children were watching educational videos, mothers were taking a moment in the breastfeeding corner… it really just confirms how important it is to care for moms during these crises.”
“The team here has some ideas on how to find Dildar, however.” He signed off, “I don’t want to jinx it but we’re hopeful.”
UPDATES FROM BANGLADESH: DAY FIVE
His name is Rofiq.
“We find Dildar and her family just as I have finally given up. She is living in an area with tents we had built earlier in the crisis. We cross a recently erected wooden bridge, climb over fetid sewers and through muddy pathways to reach her family’s tent. Children peek through the slits in the sides of nearby shelters, curious about the strange visitors. Dildar welcomes us into her tent, where she shows off her healthy baby. The tent is dark and cramped, but for now it’s home.” With help from our team in Bangladesh, Danny managed to find Dildar. He finally learned her new son’s name, Rofiq.
“Her four children are all now stronger thanks to ongoing support from one of our clinics near her section of the camp. I watched one of them nibbling on some high-energy fortified biscuits. She finally had time to think of a name for her youngest son, who is now four months old: Rofiq.”
We’re so happy Dildar and her family are safe, but as you’ve seen throughout this journey, the needs are immense, and Dildar’s troubles are far from over. So many more children like Rofiq need your help. This incredible mission has shown, however, that your support is truly saving lives.
“Before we left, I asked Dildar, through our translator, about her wish for her future. Her response was simple. ‘I wish I could go home.’”
With your help, it may just be possible.
Action Against Hunger has some of its largest relief operation in Bangladesh for the Rohingya refugees, but in 2018 we may see the first movement of population going back to Myanmar. As one of the few NGOs allowed to work in Rakhine state, Myanmar, Action Against Hunger will focus on helping people to return safely and restart their lives.