by Andrew Strunk, DRG Logistics Manager
Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh
I arrived in Cox’s Bazaar today as a forward element for the DRG Team 2 deployment, commencing on 25th October. The purpose of this early arrival is to further build relationships with local NGO’s and to form a credible intelligence picture without having to rely on second-to-third-hand information.
My first meeting was with Rakibul Hoque, the Inter-Sector Project Coordinator for Hope International – a Bengali NGO with numerous live projects in response to the Rohingya crisis. Following this a discussion was held with Blanche Tax, the Protection sector coordinator for International Organisation of Migration, regarding sexual violence training for our team, as well as organising for the distribution of the Days for Girls reusable feminine hygiene products that DRG members will be bringing with them from Australia. Further meetings were planned with Care International and BRAC, the largest NGO in Bangladesh.
Most children we encountered were coughing or complaining of fever and diarrhoea. Women were describing difficulty in accessing healthcare for sick infants while we also identified some previous patients of ours with serious wounds who informed us that they had not received proper wound care following our departure.
Once these meetings were complete, our Bengali translator Mr Moslem and I loaded up the DRG van and made our way 90 minutes south of Cox’s Bazaar to Burma Para, a spontaneous settlement where DRG Team 1 spent the bulk of its time during the first deployment.
We wanted to gain a solid intelligence picture, particularly looking at the provision of healthcare in this area. Dr Rafique Ayub – a local Rohingya doctor living within the settlement who we worked with previously – had continued to provide reports following Team 1’s departure detailing insufficient healthcare services to meet the needs of a growing camp.
Following a two-hour walk through of the entire settlement, it became clear that although health care facilities had arrived, they were unable to meet the needs of the large (and growing) population.
Multiple clinics marked on organisational response maps also didn’t exist at all. The ground-level data collected today from Burma Para will be provided back to International Organisation for Migration, who are overseeing the response to the Rohingya influx.
Most children we encountered were coughing or complaining of fever and diarrhoea. Women were describing difficulty in accessing healthcare for sick infants while we also identified some previous patients of ours with serious wounds, who informed us that they had not received proper wound care following our departure.
A very positive sign, however, was a large bamboo structure in the early stages of construction, which we were told was to be a MSF clinic upon completion. This should go a long way towards plugging the gap that appears to currently exist in the care for the Rohingya people in Burma Para.
It was a difficult day in the settlement in some respects as we were used to being an ‘active field team’ (ie: actually treating patients!). However, today we were filling more of a coordination position- a role vital to the overall response picture, but difficult to fulfil in practice. It was incredibly difficult to be recognised by people within Burma Para as health care professionals, who then came to us for help, only to find we were unable to do so on this occasion.
Dr Rafique also provided us with a list of medical supplies and medications that he is either short on, or completely run out of. This list will be paid for by DRG donations and stocked by pharmacies in the Cox’s Bazaar area, before being delivered to Dr Rafique on Sunday so that he continue his fantastic work in providing care for his people.
If you would like to help our mission, you can donate to the Backpacker Medics cause here: https://chuffed.org/project/bpmdrg-bangladesh#/supporters