Arabic-Australian Jessica Kahawaty travelled to Bangladesh with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) earlier this month to visit the Rohingya Emergency Refugee Camps. Here, the former Bazaar cover star takes us inside her “heart-breaking” and “eye-opening” trip.
Image: Andrew McConnell
Jessica Kahawaty: “On 14 December I travelled from Dubai to Dhaka, slept overnight then caught an internal flight to Cox Bazar the next day. Upon my arrival, I was briefed about the facts and current situation at the UNHCR base. As we ventured out to the Kutupalong camp, the drive was rough and dangerous with over-congested roads, yet still a beautiful drive. A tropical paradise with scenic views of the blue 120km coastline, fish farms and perfectly aligned bamboo trees.”
“The entrance to the camp looked like an open market. It hosts 33,000 of the Rohingya people that fled Myanmar back in 1992. It's dirty and the children are running around barefoot. Young boys came up to me with their live chicken and young girls counted money on the side of the road.”
“There is no word that I can adequately find to give justice to their situation and it is only through the stories and imagery that I hope this trip will change your life and what you know about these people.”
“The Rohingya people are the most persecuted minority in the world. What they leave behind is nothing short of a living hell on earth. Their homes and villages were set on fire, their family members old and young were burned alive, shot or slashed by knives. Some have survived physical and sexual abuse before runing without a second thought, leaving their home and their people behind.”
“Rohingya Emergency Refugee Camps is the world's fastest growing refugee crisis. Children make up 54 percent of the total population and women 52 percent.”
“Perhaps the most heartbreaking of all are children who have lost both their parents. The eldest child in the family has become the primary caregiver to their younger siblings.”