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Rohingya fleeing ‘with just clothes on their back’

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By Yaseen Kippie

Darul Ihsan Relief South Africa, an NGO based in KZN, recently sent a team to assess and evaluate the situation of the Rohingya Muslims traversing the muddy borders between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Moulana Muhammad Ameer, leading the team’s five day fact finding mission, says the situation is desperate and dire.

“Our Muslim brethren are suffering, and it is our duty to help them. So we decided to visit them to assess the extent of their needs.”

Ameer recalls the dirty clothing worn by the Rohingya as being their only possessions.

“A person who flees his home from persecution leaves with nothing. Sometimes not even with the clothes on their back. They’ve lost everything.”

Despite their immense loss of property, their dignified outlook on life survives.

“They related horrific stories of people being massacred and slaughtered. Yet they are dignified, and still dress modestly. They greet you without any major signs of trauma, because they are firm on their faith. They have hope that there is life after life.”

The lack of water, food, shelter, and medicine are at alarming rates at their refugee hot spots. As a result, they are experiencing extreme hunger, exhaustion and dehydration. Due to the large masses of people, sanitation facilities are also a major necessity.

There are international NGOs engaged in the affected areas and certain governments have pledged support, but according to Ameer “even if another one hundred organisations came, it would not be adequate for the scale of the hundreds of thousands of people in need”.

Makeshift shelters have been constructed using bamboo sticks, but they risk being destroyed due to torrential rains. It is clear that a sturdier programme needs to be put in place.

The plight of the Rohingya goes beyond needing basic necessities, but psychological and emotional support systems are required as well.

“Helping the Rohingya with food and shelter is just phase one, to bring them back to some sort of normality, but it’s not just about feeding them for a month and that’s it. The dignity of these people needs to be restored, because for them to be sitting around and doing nothing can be a challenge too.”

Commenting on the response of the Bangladeshi peoples, Ameer says they “are not xenophobic.”
With Bangladesh being one of the poorest counties in the world, they are in need of help. While being unable to support the Rohingya Muslims materially, they have opened their hearts and homes.

Ameer urges the South African Muslim community to donate, as “no amount is too little.”

“We have to reflect on our lives. The blessings we have and what we can give to others. We need to rally together in whatever way possible to support this. A little from everyone makes a lot.”

He urges people to reflect on the inhumane stories, recalling an 11 year old nearly Hafidh boy whose parents were slaughtered in his presence, while other families told of the honour of their womenfolk being defiled, thrown into fires and being buried alive.

To donate to initiatives helping the Rohingya Muslims, contact Darul Ihsan Relief South Africa on 031 577 786 8.


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