Myanmar Refugees: There Is No Greater Toll Than The Loss Of Life

At the point where so many seek a new life, for too many it marks the end of theirs - surely a toll too high to pay.

Given the extraordinary movement of thousands of refugees from Myanmar into Bangladesh, I wanted to see first-hand how Islamic Relief Bangladesh is helping them.

I joined colleagues in the southern fishing port of Cox's Bazar then headed further south from the town to where Bangladesh narrows to a fine point - a geographical feature created by the Naf River as it enters the Bay of Bengal.

On the east bank is Myanmar, to the west Bangladesh. It's here that many thousands of refugees are fleeing Myanmar by boat. From Bangladesh you look east to a ridge of tree-covered mountains; Myanmar is close enough to make out buildings and lights.

Shortly after leaving Cox's Bazar we see a number of makeshift camps. Our driver is able to distinguish those refugees who have just arrived - they are usually family groups who for a moment are dazed, sitting quietly by the roadside as they try to comprehend their new surroundings and the enormity of what they have just experienced.

As we headed further south we were able to pick up the Naf River and follow it south. At Teknaf, the southernmost city on mainland Bangladesh on the narrow strip running along the coast of Myanmar, we headed on foot to a crossing point used by refugees. There we found a dozen or so narrow wooden boats working their trade, collecting and dropping groups and their hastily-gathered, last-minute possessions.

It was at the Teknaf crossing that I met Muhammad Rafiq, his wife and four children. The family fled their home as conflict erupted. He heartbreakingly told me, "We left in the middle of night. We had time only to grab our children. We left everything behind..."

Caption: Muhammad's youngest son, Noyum, who he holds closely in his arms, had fever and needed immediate medical attention.

To get further down river and closer to the first point of arrival we caught a boat and were dropped off at a riverbank overlooking Myanmar, where we were given uninterrupted views across the Naf River.

Immediately, we were approached by a small group of refugees who told us of a tragic boat accident overnight when 12 refugees lost their lives. In the same instant, we became aware of a small group of people further along the beach carrying an open casket containing two bodies - the last of those who drowned to be found.

At the point where so many seek a new life, for too many it marks the end of theirs - surely a toll too high to pay.

Islamic Relief UK have launched an emergency appeal for Myanmar, please donate now and help save lives.


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