Why I’ve stayed in the Rohingya refugee camps

26 June 2020

Project officer for Caritas Bangladesh

Collins, a project officer for Caritas Bangladesh, decided to stay in Cox’s Bazar and help the Rohingya people during the coronavirus outbreak.

We are working together with Caritas Bangladesh to plan the next stage of their response to coronavirus.

Right now, Caritas Bangladesh is running an awareness-raising campaign to teach people about good handwashing and how to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as well as providing clean water points and hygiene kits. They have also provided PPE to their staff and volunteers. 

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Collins is a coordinator for Caritas Bangladesh’s Child Protection Project in the refugee camps. He explains why he has chosen to stay and help to raise awareness about coronavirus, and what gives him hope during this emergency.

What made you decide to stay in the refugee camps?

I was homesick, but I couldn’t decide what I should do. On the one hand, I wanted to go home to Dhaka during the crisis and to celebrate Easter and Pohela Boishak (Bengali New Year) with my family.

On the other hand, some colleagues in Cox’s Bazar were determined not to leave the Rohingya people. I knew that our presence at the side of the Rohingya people must not be wiped out due to the coronavirus threat.

This one thought helped me to gather my courage and say ‘Yes!’ when I was asked if I was willing to work for the Rohingya people in the camps during this global crisis.

Find out more about CAFOD's response to the Rohingya crisis

What moves you to continue helping each day?

I was extremely scared when I went to the camps the first day during the coronavirus crisis. I have been working in the camps for more than two years but I had to look at it differently this time. People live in such congested and damp places that the virus will spread and affect thousands of people in no time.

"I am afraid of being infected. But there are others who are more vulnerable than me, who need our support more than anyone else."

Collins, Caritas Bangladesh

I cannot say I am working with total happiness and no fear. I do fear what’s happening around me. I am afraid of being infected. But there are others who are more vulnerable than me, who need our support more than anyone else.

We have our families, our houses, but the Rohingya people don’t have land, they live on the bare minimum.

If we can be by their sides during this crisis and make them feel that they are not alone, this will leave a huge impact on them.

Covid-19 awareness-raising in Cox's Bazar

Caritas Bangladesh staff have been sharing messages in Cox’s Bazar camp to protect Rohingya refugees from the spread of coronavirus. Photo credit: Ginea/Caritas Bangladesh

What gives you hope?

In a time like this, among all the risks, I still feel happy when I see a sign of relief on the faces of the Rohingya families we are helping.

As we started to visit households, meeting people individually or in groups, I saw their happiness of not being left alone in this sudden rise of fear and the globally growing number of coronavirus cases.

This is what pushes me on as I wake up every morning.

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