by Andrew Strunk, DRG Logistics Manager
Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh
DRG Bangladesh Team 2’s second day of operations, was another successful combination of working towards building operating partnerships with local NGO’s, as well as compiling a thorough intelligence picture of the health care services within the Rohingya settlement sites.
Our first meeting of the day was with Iljitsj Wemerman, the Team Leader for the Myanmar Refugee Response from Care Canada. Care’s principles and priorities appear to be very much in line with BPM’s, and a productive discussion took place regarding the major southern settlements being neglected for services, with most of the focus being on the Kutapolong mega-settlement further north.
Team 2’s second member Dr Kate Baecher arrived today and she will provide some continuity for the DRG in Cox’s Bazaar, while also assisting in the operations planning that is vital prior to the remainder of the team arriving on Thursday. With Kate on board we met with our old friend Mr Babu from the Rotary club of Dhaka Bright as well as Mr Sujan from the Rotary club of Cox’s Bazaar city. Rotary’s support of the DRG has been invaluable in ensuring our paperwork has been approved by the relevant Bangladeshi authorities and we thank them for their ongoing support with Team 2.
The afternoon was then spent travelling south to complete a reconnaissance of the southern settlements. Our first stop to the settlement at Potibonia saw us meet our first significant hurdle since beginning operations here a month ago. We were refused entry in to the Potibonia site by the Bangladeshi Army, an obstacle we had not encountered before. Our safety was the reason provided, however despite the appalling conditions within the settlements, at no stage has any team member been given any reason to feel unsafe in our surroundings.
Undeterred, we moved a short distance up the road and found no such difficulty, entering the Jam Toli site with ease. We were flagged down upon entry by a Turkish aid worker who presented us with a Rohingya women with significant full thickness burns to the face and arms. She was 6 months pregnant, had no surviving family members and had received no treatment for her condition since her arrival in Bangladesh.
Transport was arranged for her to the MSF facility at Kutapolong however her discovery reminded us of the stark reality of life within the settlements. While health care facilities are being developed, access still remains difficult for many, with multiple barriers in the way.
Field statistics gathered so far show that 23% of households are headed by either a child, a woman or an elderly family member, leaving a quarter of households as vulnerable populations. Culturally, without a middle aged male to look after a family, many fear to leave their shelter, even if just to seek life saving treatment, whether the facilities are 15 minutes or an hour away.
We completed our tour of the Jam Toli and Hakimpara camps before returning to Cox’s Bazaar to meet with our local medical supplier and obtain the list of required stores for Dr Ayub in Burma Para, which we aim to collect tomorrow and deliver first thing Monday.
If you would like to help our mission, you can donate to the Backpacker Medics cause here: https://chuffed.org/project/bpmdrg-bangladesh#/supporters