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23 Nov 2017 16:30
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  •   Home > News > International

    Rohingya refugees suffer unspeakable acts of cruelty at the hands of Myanmar's military

    A heavily pregnant woman saw her husband slaughtered and fled alone. As she was running, she went into labour and was forced to walk for days with a newborn. This is just one of the harrowing stories to emerge from a refugee camp in Bangladesh.


    In the refugee camps of Bangladesh, a small handful of psychologists are attempting the near impossible — trying to counsel hundreds of thousands of traumatised Rohingya refugees.

    Many of their patients have seen or suffered unspeakable acts of cruelty at the hands of Myanmar's military.

    Bangladeshi psychologist Mahmuda, who goes by the one name, begins to list horrifying — but sadly familiar examples — when asked what trauma her patients have suffered.

    "The slaughtering of husbands, missing children," she begins.

    But then, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) worker starts to tell a tale of loss so painful, it is hard to listen.

    "She saw her husband slaughtered by the army," Mahmuda begins.

    This woman, who Mahmuda estimates is in her early twenties, heavily pregnant and carrying a one-year-old baby, fled alone.

    Then her contractions began.

    "It was a really, really horrible situation," Mahmuda continued.

    As the woman endures labour, entirely, utterly alone, she loses track of her one-year-old.

    "She lost her baby," Mahmuda said, her voice wavering.

    "She had no relatives, there was no one who could take care.

    "And also, she gave birth."

    Having lost one child and given birth to another, this distraught new mother walks, for days, alone with her newborn to the safety of Bangladesh.

    There, fresh tragedy.

    "After long walking, almost eight or 10 days, finally the baby didn't survive," Mahmuda concludes.

    Asked what she says to someone enduring such grief, she sighs.

    "What I have said to her is now you are safe, secure and you are alive," she said.

    Children draw harrowing pictures of memories

    Alongside mothers who have lost children, her patients also include children with no parents.

    "A few of the children, they don't have any parents, any relatives," she said.

    "They have been experiencing — they have seen in front of them — father and mother both slaughtered or burned.

    "We have provided some basic support, not in depth counselling."

    One of the things Mahmuda has asked these traumatised children to do is draw their memories.

    The images are confronting — helicopters, shooting down from above, burning villages, and people fleeing in boats.

    She says schooling, and more safe spaces for children in the teeming camps are desperately needed.

    To provide some basic play therapy, and to become then normalised, in their daily life.

    None of this has happened because, faced with now over 600,000 fresh refugees since August, aid agencies are still struggling to feed and house them.

    A quarter of young children are malnourished and the disease threat hangs like an ominous cloud.

    The Red Cross, UNHCR, Care, Oxfam and Save the Children are launching fresh appeals for funding, amid fears the world is moving on from this still unfolding human suffering.

    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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