Voices of the Myanmar Refugee Crisis: Kulsoma

Voices of the Myanmar Refugee Crisis: Kulsoma


"We spent nearly two weeks just sleeping on the roadside, then we came here 15 days ago," says Kulsoma, 30 (pictured). "Living on the road was hell. We had to desperately grasp for food whenever aid trucks stopped nearby, and I had to go out and beg with the children. But there were so many people in need, and so few people giving out money. We just slept where we sat, by the side of the road.

"The Bangladesh Border Guards took pity on us, and they drove us here where we were able to build this shelter. I brought this tarpaulin from home. We were given it when our home was destroyed after a cyclone. It has been very useful. We got another plastic sheet when we arrived here, and we use that for the floor so we don’t have to lie on the mud. "I have a card now, so we can get food from the aid agencies. For me, not having any drinking water is the hardest thing. Though the heat is also unbearable. And we are all so dehydrated.

"My husband brings the water, as the lake where we collect it is very far away. Just now, we ran out and I had to use dirty water to wash and cook my rice. I don’t want my babies to eat brown rice — it isn’t healthy for them. And of course, I am thinking of how dirty the water is and that it is going to make my children sick. All I can do is pray to Allah. All the family have had diarrhea since we arrived in Bangladesh.

"We are running out of money, so we can’t supplement the rice we are given with vegetables and fish for much longer. So soon, all we will have is rice. My children will not grow up healthy on this diet, and this frightens me so much I cannot sleep at night.”

Around 80 percent of the refugees fleeing Myanmar are women, children and small babies. According to a recent CARE assessment in Balukhali Camp in Cox’s Bazar, women lack privacy, safe places to sleep, sufficient sanitation facilities and mental health support. In addition, a lot of them do not have the means to feed their children and worry for their mental and physical health; many children are suffering from traumatic experiences, skin diseases, diarrhea and fevers. Additionally, close to half a million refugees from Myanmar are in urgent need of assistance because they have either witnessed, experienced or are at risk of sexual assault or other forms of gender-based violence

CARE has secured funds to establish four women-friendly spaces for 30,000 refugees in the coming weeks. The centers will be used to identify and provide support to survivors of gender-based violence, to raise awareness of emergency care services, and to establish safe entry points for life-saving medical referrals and psychosocial support. CARE will also establish three mobile health clinics, where women and adolescent girls can seek support for family planning, maternal health and child care. 

Photo credit: Kathleen Prior/CARE

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