Voices from shelter camps

Fahmi Ela(Translated by Sadia Rahman):

PC: John Owens (VOA)

Not a fairytale-1

Romela and Jomela are sisters. They lost their parents on their way fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh. They rode on a boat in the dark in a hurry and the sisters got separated accidentally from the family. They saw their parents and younger brother on another boat to Bangladesh. That boat couldn’t carry the weight and drowned. They saw their parents dying in front of their eyes. Later they were sheltered in Rohingya camp in a community camp leaders home.

The room for the sisters has a home theatre, cosmetics, and colorful dresses. Whenever I entered they used to get uneasy. They answered questions meekly and informed me they are absolutely alright and they don’t need anything here.

Whenever their foster parents came into the room their fear increased losing the rhythm of expressions. The wife never left them alone for a moment with Bengali visitor, she would always be around.  After a lot of negotiations, we sent her away and asked the sisters if they were alright or wish to go to school or need anything else.

They expressions told me they did not receive any affection or care for a long time. Their kohled eyes spoke thousands of words with tears washing the powders of their cheeks. They looked at the at the sound box and colorful dresses. It was not possible to understand everything in spite of clear indications. What can I do with these observations only?

I asked them to come to the kid’s friendly center without any fear. These places have schools and playgrounds. Their eyes sparkled for a time being. I met the girls a few times more. Then I got busy with some other cases. After solving those, when I returned there I discovered they were not there. The foster parents informed me they don’t know where they have gone.

Not a fairytale- 2

Sufia is six months pregnant. When she came here from Myanmar she was pregnant then too. She gave birth to a boy in November. She may of 24-25 ages, has 5 kids. She’s been living in a Rohingya camp for almost one year. She’s having labor pain early. Her husband has not returned home for a week. A volunteer informed me about her so I went to see her first. She’s living in a small hut with her 5 kids and enduring the pain of labor. The pain occurred when she slipped on her way to the bathroom in dark. She has been feeding her kids in this situation for two days even fetched water from the hills. I was tormented watching her. I referred her to a foreign organization. They sent an ambulance and I returned with peace. I was informed just a few later that she gave birth to a dead child on her way to the hospital.

I went to see her after three days of that incident. She is cooking for her kids and fetched water form hills. She requested to have lunch with her cordially. Her husband hasn’t returned yet.

Not a fairytale- 3

Jannat is 4 years old. She screams if she sees anyone around her except her foster parents or some familiar faces. Solim Uddin and Hafsa begum are childless. They found Jannat in the darks when they were fleeing from Myanmar; a wounded child crying alone in the forest. They embraced her and crossed the border with her in their arms. Jannat is their child from then onwards.

Hafsa broke into tears describing the situation. After they came to this camp, Jannat and her father recognized each other while taking relief. Hafsa informed that the guy has remarried here while Jannat’s mother died in childbirth. Now he wants Jannat back cause Jannat is now an earning source as a few foreign organizations are willing to carry her expense.

Hafsa kept on crying relentlessly. Solim Uddin informed that Jannat’s ” real father”  lets go of his claim on the child from time to time if he’s bribed 100-200 to per month. They do not mind bribing him, to ensure they get to keep their child to themselves.

Not a fairytale-4

Amzad crossed the border with his elder brother. He is nine years old and living under the tent of a foreign organization. I discovered him making hotchpotch. His elder brother visits him weekly. He doesn’t know where his brother works. He comes and gives him some money and then leaves again in the morning.  Amzad plays with other kids, cooks by himself, and fetches water from the hill, takes care of the household. His parents died in childhood so he is the master of the house now. He manages everything. He sometimes goes to the hilly areas, collects crusts to cook, and carries the weight of relief on his own. He goes to the childcare center. He memorized the rhymes they taught. He has sketched some scenes in some A4 papers. In that sketches there are trees, there is river beside the forests and people walking by the sides of the river with bags in their bag.

Amzad drew from his memory. Childcare centers colors have made the sketches lively. He sketched sun on the sky and boats on the river as a friend indeed. When I looked carefully I saw a few black tubes keeking from the trees. I asked him what those are and he replied “guns”. In a kids imagination there are only guns and to get rid of that he clasped his brother’s fingers and crossed the river of his sketch.

The original article was published in Women Chapter Bengali site on 21st June 2018.

Fahmi Ela has completed MSS in Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University. Women empowerment is her only passion towards which she wishes to contribute through her writing. She is a regular writer of Women Chapter Bangla.




Sadia Rahman is pursuing Masters from Rajshahi University, Bangladesh. Other than writing, her passions include writing, debating and anchoring. 
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