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Big hearts in a small village
Johora, 60, came to the IOM-supported community clinic in Kutupalong in Ukhia upazila of Cox’s Bazar with Shajeda, her 20-year-old daughter-in-law, who is in her eighth month of pregnancy and expecting her first child.
As they waited for Shajed’s checkup, they leafed through the little blue book given to expectant mothers by the clinic, detailing their medical history and appointments throughout the pregnancy.
The clinic, outside the Kutupalong makeshift settlement where over 613,000 Rohingya refugees are seeking refuge from violence in Myanmar, provides healthcare to local people like Johora’s family, as well as the refugees, , reports the UN Migration Agency on Thursday.
On a normal day, clinic staff treat as many as 150 patients — often half of them locals and half refugees.
Johora lives close to the clinic, which is located just a few miles from Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar. The newly arrived refugees trudge past her house on their way from the border to the vast, makeshift settlement.
Johora is quietly proud of the fact that she has cooked food for close to 400 destitute Rohingya families since the current influx started on August 25. Although, like most people in the neighbourhood, she has very little, she felt that she had no choice but to help them with some food and a place to stay. Two and a half months into the crisis, some of the families are still living on her land.
“I remember two similar influxes of people, when violence broke out a long time ago, but this one is much bigger,” she said. The stories of suffering she has heard from her guests are like nothing that she has ever heard before. “I am trying to support them as best I can, but it is hard,” she observes.
Like other members of the local community in Cox’s Bazar, Johora also worries that the huge influx of people since August will over-stretch the limited services, including healthcare, that exist in the area.
Suma Sharma, a local IOM community health promoter and outreach worker, who covers the Kutupalong area where Johora and Shajeda live, recognises the problem.