Newborn Rohingya refugee baby Hosne Ara and mother Hasina wait out Cyclone Mocha’s landfall
Rohingya refugee mother Hasina and her day-old baby Hosne Ara waited anxiously for Cyclone Mocha to pass the refugee camps in Bangladesh
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“I have been living with mixed feelings of happiness and anxiety for the last twenty-four hours," says Hasina, a Rohingya refugee living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She gave birth to her daughter, Hosne Ara, a day before Cyclone Mocha wreaked havoc in the southeast coast of Bangladesh.
A mother’s fears as a cyclone draws near
Cyclone Mocha had the potential to turn into one of the most severe natural disasters to hit Bangladesh in the past five years. For the one million Rohingya refugees living in the densely packed camps in Cox’s Bazar, the fear of destruction and further deprivation was even more acute. Given the risk of landslides, Hasina and other Rohingya refugees feared that shelter and essential facilities like clinics would be damaged, leaving them homeless again and without critical services.
Going into labour in the middle of an incoming cyclone meant Hasina’s ability to move if needed was limited. The incoming rain and strong winds meant she would not be able to easily access any medical care.
Preparing for landfall
As Cyclone Mocha loomed closer, UNICEF prepared to respond to the emergency needs of refugee children and families who would be affected the worst. UNICEF prepositioned emergency health kits, essential medicines, water purification tablets, thousands of water containers, dignity and hygiene kits, therapeutic milk and other critical supplies. Alongside partners, including UN sister agencies, UNICEF helped to train over 3,000 refugee volunteers who are equipped to be first responders in the camps.
Emergencies also mean that children are at increased risks of abuse, violence, drowning and being separated from their families in a chaos. Working with the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF disseminated prevention messages to keep children out of harm’s way.
In the hours before the cyclone was expected to make landfall, children in the Rohingya refugee camps could be seen carrying essentials and seeking safe shelters. Worried mothers and fathers huddled together with their children in their makeshift homes, waiting for the cyclone to pass.
Spared the worst
To Hasina’s relief, the Rohingya refugee camps were spared the worst. Even then, the strong winds and heavy rainfall uprooted trees and damaged hundreds of shelters and facilities.
The bravery and dedication of thousands of Rohingya refugee volunteers who evacuated hundreds of people to safer locations in the camps helped their own communities. In the aftermath of the cyclone, children were seen helping their parents to repair the damaged roofs of their huts.
“UNICEF is on the ground in the Rohingya refugee camps to assess the damage and to rapidly deliver support to children. Together with our partners, we are still receiving reports from all the different camps. It is too early to know the full extent of the damage. UNICEF remains fully mobilized, but right now it seems as if the refugee camps were spared from the worst,“ said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
Spared from the impact of cyclone Mocha, baby Hosne Ara now faces an uncertain future, just like other Rohingya refugees who continue to rely entirely on humanitarian assistance for protection, food, water, shelter and health.