Nearly one million Rohingya now live in Bangladesh. Since August, more than 800,000 people have joined the approximately 150,000 to 200,000 refugees who arrived already in the 1990s.
"People came all of a sudden. Especially women with many children lined the street. They needed protection and food right now." Nishat Rahman is a professor at the Brac Institute for Educational Development and explains how the country was literally overrun.
"We came to assess the situation and were completely overwhelmed by it. The women wanted us to give them food or take them with us wherever we could. The stories that people tell us then and now are so horrific that it is hard to imagine. A woman told how her house was burned down while she was inside with her husband and her four children. She could escape with the little one pressed against her chest, but her husband and three other children died in the flames. She has serious burns on her right side of her body. And then there are the psychological consequences as well. We at brac were one of the first organisations to offer help for the people here. Since September we have built 215 Child Friendly Spaces (CFS), 15 of them are for the local population. Because the situation is not easy for them either. We here in Bangladesh already have a lot of problems anyway and we are now running out of capacity."
One thing seems to be clear: the situation cannot be solved so easily.
Brac has set up a highly professional system to identify the mental needs of Rohingya and provide support and counseling.
Many of the children who come to CFS are hyperactive or completely withdrawn, have sleep difficulties and experience flashbacks. Despite the challenging circumstances, brac has managed to create a structure for the 215 CFS. The emergency pedagogy team of the Friends of Waldorf Education, which was on location from 1 to 11 February, was tasked with filling this structure with moments of tranquillity and with methods in which both the children and the caregivers could regain strength.
However, not only the helpers and employees, but also the host community, the citizens of the host country, are to receive support within the framework of the project. For this reason, training sessions for the Jaago Foundation were held in the camps.
The topics of the trainings range from questions like: What is a trauma, how does it affect and what can be done pedagogically? Up to the limits and infections when therapeutic help is needed. Methods such as how the supervisors can strengthen themselves and practical workshops were offered as well.
We have only just begun, with the so essential support. In the end, it is the task of the global community not to leave this country alone at this time, which is actively trying not to perish under the burden of this humanitarian disaster.
(Kristina Wojtanowski, Head of Emergency Pedagogy mission in Bangladesh)
Mass flight of Rohingya from MyanmarCountless people are waiting. On food, on their registration, on plastic tarpaulins, on a piece of hope. We're in the Thenkhali refugee camp. The rain's just stopped when we got there. Nevertheless, the paths in the camp are partly impassable due to the mud. The small tents made of plastic tarpaulins and bamboo poles stand on the ground. The narrow ditch therefore hardly helps to avoid the flooding of the tents. Two families share a tent, only divided by a tarpaulin. Sleeping is done on a small tarpaulin or an empty rice bag.Mumtaz's family is one of the many in the camp. They were on the flight for 12 days, had to leave family members behind, many were killed. Now they are safe, but the memories come back at night: shots, screams, the escape. All this shakes under a thin layer of solidification and shock. And even the slightest scratching on this surface makes the horrible come up again. Mumtaz's husband suffers from daily flashbacks. Every time he's like out of nowhere, suddenly back there, behind the border.We're moving on. The Kutupalong camp is divided into an old and a new part. It has been in existence since 1992, the first major wave of refugees arrived in October 2016 and was nothing compared to the masses of people who have come to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017.As far as the eye can see you only see tents. And here in Kutupalong New Extension there are again queues of people waiting. There are now about 180,000 people living here and there are eight more such camps throughout the district. And there will be more. Among them are many children, almost 300,000 already live in the camps. So far, only very few people have had the opportunity to visit a Child Friendly Space or one of UNICEF's learning centres.It is a challenge to become active as an international NGO in Bangladesh. Cooperation with local organisations is essential. The Rohingya are still stateless and there will be no possibility of their return in the foreseeable future. In order to provide long-term help and a future for the children, we are planning training courses for local counsellors and a work in Child Friendly Spaces.
Help for helpers in BangladeshOn August 25, a Rohingya militia attacked Burma's security forces, which responded with a counteroffensive. In the following weeks, over 300,000 Rohingya fled Burma to Bangladesh. Many of them come across the border river Naf with overcrowded boats - and many of them don't make it to the other bank. An independent assessment of the situation is not possible at the moment, as the government is refusing entry to human rights observers. However, UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Raad Al Hussein speaks of a "prime example of ethnic cleansing" and the systematic expulsion of the Muslim minority of the Rohingya.The border region of Bangladesh, where the exhausted people arrive, is overwhelmed by the situation. The already poor country has not officially registered refugees from Burma since the 1990s and has only provided them with the most necessary assistance. The refugee camps have been full for a long time, and most of them are now ending up in temporary shelters.Nevertheless, there is a willingness to help, many people do not want to stand idly by and watch the suffering of the Rohingya. What these volunteers experience is often inconceivable. One of them reports:"I was in the Shawpuri Dweep region, where the first refugees arrived. Once we drove out ourselves. And I was horrified when I saw how many children were not taken away by the boatmen because they had no money. At night we went to the camps and it was as if the mountain was shaking due to the crying of the many children. You can hardly describe these scenes. What I saw in their eyes made me traumatized myself."There is always a danger of secondary traumatisation for helpers. But here it is particularly large, they urgently need psychosocial support.For this reason, the Emergency Education Department of the Friends of Waldorf Education will be conducting an on-site mission in Janauary 2018. In addition to working with traumatized children, the focus here is above all on relieving the burden on local helpers. In workshops and coaching sessions, they are given methods from emergency and trauma pedagogy to help them deal with the enormous burden. This includes psycho-hygiene, self-care and the strength of one's own (resilience) forces.
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