Their family joined the mass exodus, a surge of humanity spilling across the border from Myanmar to Bangladesh. It is one of the largest ever movements of people in our region. Mosi says everyone was just looking for somewhere safe.
Here in the camps, there is some safety. Hundreds of thousands of people live in flimsy structures of bamboo and plastic held together by string. Everyone is making the best of their new homes. I see personal flourishes everywhere; bright sarongs mark a front door, bamboo weaved for a window, shells line a doorway. It strikes me time and again that no one deserves to live like this.
This is one of the most densely populated places on earth. Approximately 75,000 people are crammed in to every square kilometre.
Inside one of the temporary shelters a family now calls home. Photo: IFRC/Shourov Sobahan
In the first days I arrived in the camps, one year ago, I was blown away by the speed of change. Frantic building everywhere; new schools and learning centres, thousands of hillside footpaths etched and winding through the labyrinth of homes. These are resilient people taking control of their lives and making the most of the little they have.
I was awestruck by how resourceful people were here. New businesses sprang up all over the camps. People erected little shops to earn an income selling everything from watermelons to fried samosas and phone chargers.
A market in one of the camps. Photo: American Red Cross/Brad Zerivitz
Every day, a new challenge. During the monsoon season we trudged through thick mud to find new locations for boreholes. We return days later only to find a family building a new shelter on the site we had identified. A mad scramble followed to find another suitable location to dig.
It’s difficult and frustrating to change our plans. Then again, who am I to complain when parents are only trying to find a suitable place to raise their families among the dirt and debris they now call home.
A solitary tree stands as a reminder of the forest reserve that once stood here. Photo: IFRC/Shourov Sobahan
I remember the time I arrived at a large tarpaulin-lined hut for a training session with community leaders about how to treat drinking water with chlorine tablets. Idris, one of the leaders, explained lots of people were keen to take part but the training had to be postponed because the collection time for the monthly food parcels had changed.
I made the trek with Idris on narrow, slippery paths, past festering ponds being converted to vegetable gardens, to let the community leaders know the rescheduled time for the training.