child hold a baby in a camp in Bangladesh

On the steep hillsides near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, a ramshackle collection of camps and settlements have sprung up.

Conditions here are extremely harsh – almost everyone is sheltering under plastic sheeting – with heavy rain and mud spreading sewage and washing homes away.

Over half a million people have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017, the majority of them women and young girls.

Minara holds her daughter, Shomina

Twenty-year-old Minara and her husband fled their home after violence came to their village. They travelled by boat and truck to reach safety in the Cox’s Bazaar district of Bangladesh.

Their daughter, Shomina, was born seven days ago in the very tent where they now sit.

Mohammed Zakaria sits in his tent in Cox’s Bazar district, Ukhia township.

“Why are we here? We don’t know,” says Mohammed Zakaria.

The 26-year-old fled and hid with his neighbours after he heard shots being fired. But they found him. A day later he awoke with his right leg shattered.

“I was unconscious for a day,” he continues. “When I came around everything was destroyed. My brothers and neighbours helped me get away. They made me a chair and carried me.”

Together they made the treacherous journey to Bangladesh. He is already looking forward to the day he can return home.

“One hundred per cent I want to go home. I grew up there, it is my home. If I could I would definitely go back.”

Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar district, Ukhia township

Alexander Matheou, executive director of international at the British Red Cross, visited the area in early October.

“Something deeply dramatic and disturbing is happening here,” he said.

“Over the last six weeks, 500,000 people have crossed the border from Myanmar…

“[There is] no shelter, no water, no food, no latrines, no medicine. All of those things have to be provided.

“The Red Cross is scaling up to provide all those things as quickly as we possibly can.”

Cholera remains a real concern. The first phase of a cholera vaccination campaign is now underway.

Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are going from tent to tent to make sure people stay safe and healthy.

Salim Ullah is resting with his wife Amarfah and niece Saida

In Balukahli camp, Salim Ullah is resting with his wife Amarfah and niece Saida.

“We had our own house, it used to belong to my parents, but now it was our own,” says Salim. “We don’t own land, but we had a home.”

In the confusion of leaving, Salim lost his brother. He does not know if he is dead or alive.

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At the same camp, red relief cards are given out, entitling people to aid from the Red Crescent.

The Red Crescent has been providing food, water and other items since March. To date, they have supported over 240,000 people with emergency aid.

Prior to the recent arrivals, there were already some 213,000 people in Bangladesh who had fled earlier waves of violence in Myanmar.

Eight-month-old Muhamed Hares is x-rayed at the Red Cross Field Hospital

On 16 October a Red Cross field hospital opened to serve the recent arrivals as well as the local community.

The 60-bed facility has an operating room, delivery suite, intensive care unit, three wards, a laboratory and an isolation unit.

The first patient was eight-month-old Muhamed Hares. He had a collapsed lung and his operation went well.

The hospital is staffed by 15 doctors and 30 midwives from the Red Crescent. They are supported by 30 international medical staff and 30 support staff such as cleaners and cooks.

To date, over 6,000 people have been treated by Red Cross Red Crescent medical teams in the area.

Bangladesh, Cox’s Bazar district, Ukhia township

With the support of the British Red Cross and others, the Red Crescent has increased its response effort.

In addition to the food, water and mobile health clinics, we are providing cash grants so families can start small businesses to support themselves.

We are also helping to reconnect families who have been separated during the escape.

Photos: AJ Ghani/British Red Cross, Emilia Kangasluoma/Finnish Red Cross