The Blog

Health concerns in refugee camps

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It is already nearly 3 weeks this time around in Bangladesh. Time flies so fast. I guess, it does so for wrong reasons too. The humanitarian community (and not only the humanitarian community for that matter) is extremely worried about the situation of the Rohingya. The human rights violations report (can be accessed through this link here) is depressing. There is little wonder that so many people flee Myanmar and try seek safety in Bangladesh. But here in Bangladesh, there are problems too. Bangladesh is an extremely hospitable and welcoming country, but it is very poor too. While the country has accepted around 500,000 refugees from Myanmar (putting most of the rich EU countries in shame), it is now overwhelmed. In order to help Bangladesh cope, we need action. We need to find resources for developing water and sanitation, health, shelter, or educational infrastructure for the refugees, but also for the communities, who have, so generously, decided to open their homes to those in need. We need attention even quicker, as we now worry that we may be faced with waterborne diseases (yes, if you are in a poor condition and/or malnourished waterborne diseases can kill you easily). Yet given that all news now concentrates on problems in the Middle East, or with drama of the new administration of the United States, the plea of the Rohingya seems little noticed. Sad times!

I am travelling for a week to Bangkok on Friday. Looking forward to check on Tahir and his well being there. He seems energised, after our recent visit of his sponsors from Canada. It is already 4 months since we filed an application for his resettlement to Canada. Still long way to go, but we are hopeful. 

I am now in process of dealing with my first personal tax declaration for Portugal. So excited to feel that I am really a resident there! It is already one year!


January in Bangkok

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Two weeks in Bangkok has gone very fast. Quite enjoyable on a personal and professional level, less so when it comes to impressions on the latest developments in politics in the world. 

A very good friend of ours, Paula, has just arrived to visit us from Canada. Paula is one of Tahir’s Group of Five sponsors for his refugee resettlement there. Her visit gives an excellent opportunity for two of them to get to know one another… which is crucial, given that we hope that sooner rather than later, we would be able to finalise Tahir’s departure for Canada. 

I have also been very active and busy professionally. Together with my colleagues from my own organisation, and with colleagues from our partner organistaions were finalising lots of plans for our projects in Bangladesh, but also in other countries in South East Asia. Perhaps hardly surprising, lots of our attention will go to humanitarian issues relating to protection of refugees’ across the region. We are also going to work on some projects relating to increasing capacity to respond to disasters in large urban areas, such as Dhaka, Ulaanbaatar, or Manila. Quite fascinating. 

The changes in refugee resettlement policies of the Trump's administration are translating to thousands of human tragedies in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia (among other countries). Many refugees, who have been in these countries for years (mainly refugees fleeing religious persecution in their home countries) are affected. Hundreds of people were getting ready to depart to the USA, after being promised by the American Government that they would be resettled there (following all vetting procedures). The new regulations have put the lives of these people in despair. No one knows whether the promises will be kept, and no one knows when there would be some clarity over what would happen next. Needless to say that those refugees who have not been qualified for the resettlement yet (but hoped to be chosen in the future) are also affected. Lots of work is needed from all of us, including the governments of the host countries to decide what would happen to these people. Regardless of political and economical considerations, we need to remember that it is unfair to keep people in a limbo. We need to find a solution on what next… and it is regardless of whether the option of the resettlement to the USA is on the table or not. In any case, I find the decisions of the US administration towards those who have been promised the resettlement to be utterly unfair and heartless. Countries should honour honour their commitments, and only make changes in policies, however tough, in a way that do not undermine trust in agreements. Very unfair, especially that such behaviour comes from a government of the country that so many people still look up to. 


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