Francis Atul Sarker is the executive director of Caritas Bangladesh, our local partner who is working around the clock to get emergency aid to the mainly Rohingya people, fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar. He gives this eyewitness account of life for the refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
When I think of the refugees that I visited in southern Bangladesh last week, I keep seeing a young girl with trauma written across her face. I asked where her parents were. She told me she was an orphan, being looked after by a neighbour from their village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. It was heart-breaking.
In March 2017, a drought in east Africa, combined with terrible violence between the government and rebels, had created a famine in South Sudan. One of CAFOD’s staff based in the country, Emergency Programme Manager Michael O’Riordan, visited people in March to give out food. At that time he reflected on the emotion and power of the experience.
A haunting refrain
When I was leaving Yirol in central South Sudan following a food distribution, an elderly gentleman in his late 60s kept asking why he wasn’t on the list to receive food. He couldn’t work and therefore couldn’t earn a living. Clearly disabled and using a walking stick, he kept pleading “why am I not deserving?”.
This haunting refrain has echoed in my ears ever since. It is not that he is not deserving; we just don’t have enough for everyone.
Having returned to this community after just a few months since the last food distribution, we found a bad situation far worse than we could have imagined. Although we are responding as best we can, it is beyond our ability to meet all needs.
Zoë Corden tells us what it is like working for CAFOD’s Emergency Response Team and what a typical day in the office is like for her.
What is your role at CAFOD?
I am an Emergency Support Officer in the Emergency Response Team. We are a small team of people who are sent into all types of emergencies that CAFOD responds to. My job is to help CAFOD partners when an emergency happens.
What kind of emergencies does CAFOD respond to?
We respond to a range of emergencies and no two are the same. There are ‘rapid onset’ emergencies, that hit suddenly, like earthquakes and floods, which you’ll usually see in the news; but there are also smaller emergencies that sadly don’t make the news, or receive so much money, despite many people being affected – we call these ‘hidden’ emergencies.