Bangladesh: A refugee at 84

Arafa and Jafor have been married 44 years. They belong to the Rohingya people from southern Myanmar and were forced to flee their country last September.

Arafa and Jafor have been married 44 years. They belong to the Rohingya people from southern Myanmar and were forced to flee their country last September.

Jafor is 84 years old. It’s rare to meet someone that old in this region of the world, let alone a refugee. Harsh living conditions have kept the life expectancy in the region to under 64.

By comparison, his wife, Arafa, is “only 69.” She takes care of him, and depends on help from the maji—the neighbourhood chief—and the kindness of their neighbours. When we met them in Bangladesh, their shelter was in terrible condition. The tarps had holes in them and their ceiling was so low that they could only crouch inside it. They slept on a dirty piece of plastic on the floor.

During the last monsoon, their shelter flooded from the rains. “There was no way to keep our shelter dry,” said Arafa. “Every time the rain came, the ground turned to mud. Now it’s the beginning of the monsoon, and people are saying a cyclone could strike us. I’m very scared!”

Medair and World Concern have provided 5,000 families with upgraded shelter kits to help keep them safe as they prepare to face imminent monsoon rains and wind. Jafor and Arafa received one of the shelter kits, but they lacked the necessary strength to make the upgrades themselves.

The maji where they live contacted us and told us about their situation. Mimz, Medair’s shelter project manager, hired a local carpenter to rebuild their shelter and those of any other families not able to do it themselves.

The carpenter prepared a new plot, raising it with compacted soil, and dug gutters around the shelter so it would not become flooded. He anchored foundation beams deep into the ground, with diagonal bracing all around to help their shelter withstand the wind.

“We are grateful that you have come to help,” said Arafa. “Without our son here, our only option was to pray and wait for kind people to come help us.”

Medair continues to monitor the areas where we have distributed upgraded shelter kits with World Concern, to ensure that each family is able to strengthen their own shelter. If not, we are there to help.

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Medair’s work in Bangladesh is made possible by Swiss Solidariy, Transform Aid (AU), World Concern, and our generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.