Atom Araullo highlights milestones, challenges of Rohingya Crisis
National Goodwill Ambassador Atom Araullo surveys the world’s largest refugee camp on one of its many hills. This is the second time that he has been here since the height of the influx more than two years ago when Rohingya refugees started entering Bangladesh by the tens of thousands. In 2017, the Rohingya people were forcibly driven out of their homes due to the mass executions, rape, and persecution. More than 700,000 people were a part of this exodus to Bangladesh, a country facing their own challenges. The world watched as the humanitarian crisis unfolded. To this day, those who fled are trying to regain hope and rebuild their lives far from the only home that they know. “When it happened in 2017, the eyes of the world were on Myanmar and Bangladesh. More than 700,000 refugees crossed the border. It was a really crazy situation and it is really important to see how the world has responded and how the situation is unfolding,” Atom Araullo said upon laying eyes on the camp again. “ I’ve been here two years ago, in 2017. There are have been massive changes most of them are quite encouraging. If you notice that there is a lot of greenery that is something new in the last couple of months. It’s just one of the many changes that makes life here more liveable,” Atom said. Brick by brick Atom sees engineers lined up on the road on his first day at the camp. They were slowly digging and replacing rocks along gutters and side streets under the hot sun. “They are strengthening the soil by the roads,” a humanitarian aid worker translates for Atom. Community workers and refugees themselves toil to clean out the side of the roads so that it is free of debris that can block drainage. They get a small allowance for the work. “It is hard work, but we are doing it for the community,” one of the refugees mentioned with a smile. Kutupalong camp is at the mercy of weather patterns. The temperature in Kutupalong camp can reach a scorching 40 degrees during summer. It can get sweltering inside the shelters. While the monsoon season often brings mudslides and diseases making the Rohingya people more vulnerable. Kutupalong camp sits on a hill, parts of which are on softer soil making sections of the camp prone to landslides during the monsoon season. Trees were cut down for shelter and firewood for cooking. Families occupy different areas each at risk by some natural disaster. Thousands of families living in improvised shelters perched on barren hills are risk of having their homes washed away. For those living in low-lying areas, they face the possibility of having their homes being flooded. Engineers must create stronger foundations in order to safeguard families at risk. Workers build canals and clean the drains in order to redirect rain water. Humanitarian organizations including UNHCR help save the lives of Rohingya refugees especially during monsoon season by providing them with shelter kits, fortifying shelters, and relocating persons-of-concern to higher ground. All this is to ensure that the Rohingya families will not lose everything that they built in Bangladesh. “This part of the camp is the most secure among other camps. With time it has changed a lot, the situation is better than before,” said Moktar Amid, one of the elected community leaders in Kutupalong camp.
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