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Without their parents, fighting for survival

Sadia
© UNICEF Bangladesh/2017/Sonnet
From left Muhammed Riaz (7), Sadiya (8) and Formina (16) outside of their bamboo and tarpaulin shelter in Balukhali makeshift settlement.

By Simon Pickup

Cox’s Bazar, October 5, 2017: Siblings Formina, 16 years, Sadiya 8 years and Muhammed Riaz 7 years arrived in Bangladesh 10 days ago (29th September) after a treacherous 7 day walk to flee violence in neighbouring Myanmar which saw their father killed. During the panic, they were separated from their mother and haven’t seen her since.

They live in a poorly constructed bamboo and tarpaulin shelter on top of a steep hill in Balukhali Makeshift settlement. Their grandmother, Jamila Khatun is all they have by way of parental care. She is 60 years old, weak and sick and struggles to care for herself let alone her three grandchildren. Jamila told us: “In Mynamar, men and women were being oppressed, being burnt, being shot at. We had to leave. I was stronger before but now I am sick and weak. I don’t know where my daughter, the mother of my grandchildren, is. I don’t know if she is alive or dead. I think of her a lot.”

Khamila paints a solemn figure as she squats outside their makeshift shelter. Pain and distress is etched across her face and tears begin to form in her eyes as she describes the struggles they are enduring “We are barely living here in Bangladesh. I am too weak and sick to move around. I have to send the children to receive aid for us. Every day I worry about the children. How can I feed them, how can I keep them safe?”

Jamila
© UNICEF Bangladesh/2017/Sonnet
Grandmother Jamila Khatun describes the struggles of daily life and trying to care for her three grandchildren at Balukhali makeshift camp.

Childhood disrupted
8 year old Sadiya had dreams of becoming a doctor. Now, her days are too much of a struggle for her to be able to dream. When we met her, she’d just received a food package of dried rice at an aid distribution point after waiting hours in the heat of day, by herself without water or shade. She set of on the walk back to her shelter up steep hills using makeshift footpaths with the heavy package on her head.
This is a journey she and her siblings have to make several times a day as they assume the roles of adults in ensuring the family’s most basic needs are met. Over a smoky open fire inside their squalid shelter, she begins to prepare dinner under her grandmother’s supervision who can do little to assist.

When asked about life in the camp she replies “I miss my parents, I miss my friends and my relatives. I want to go back to school. My days here are hard”. She struggles to hold back her emotions as she thinks about how her life has changed. With every movement and word, it’s clear that this is a little girl, just 8 years old, who has already endured more than most could handle.

She has lost everything, her parents and her possessions, all senses of normality and safety. But for a little girl who has lost so much, when asked what she wants, her answer is movingly simple, “I want education, that’s all I need”.

UNICEF is working closely with the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME) to provide early learning and non-formal basic education to all Rohingya children using a bilingual curriculum as well as providing support to all schools in host communities. Our aim is to ensure at least 201,765 children are accessing quality education opportunities in safe and secure learning environments. To meet this, we are currently constructing 1500 learning centres across makeshift settlements and training and deploying 3000 teachers.  We urgently need your support.

Help UNICEF ensure safe and quality learning opportunities for all children affected by this emergency. Visit http://bit.ly/2hRfSYq to donate and help children like Sadiya and many more.

 

 
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