You know the story of the boy who gave five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus, right? 5000 people were hungry and needed food. Five loaves of bread and two fish were all they had. And, in the end, it was enough.
These days I have been feeling a lot like we are that little boy. We have so little to feed 100,000 people who are on the run in Arakan state. But what we have, we give.
Do you want to give after reading this? I hope you do. This is where you do your giving.
Rather than using my own words, I will share some of the images and thoughts we have gotten from our staff over the past days:
Meanwhile a stone’s throw away there are thousands of others with nothing. The reasons are complicated. One pocket of 2,500 arrived by 14 boats and have been forced to fend for themselves. We were told that the government wants them to return to their villages and refuses to help them in any way. It’s hard to think of them returning to villages since their villages have been burned to
the ground. Others told of how they’re forced to sleep on the ground out in the open.
These people also have been given no food. The nearby villagers have shared their own rice but the rations have been sparse and sporadic.
Another ‘surprise’ is that there is no indication of other help. The more we saw, the more overwhelming it became. People are in horrible conditions (we visited hundreds seeking shelter in a cow shed) with little or no assistance. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but yet another one was the obvious friendliness of everyone we met. They have every right to be bitter but every single person was friendly and approachable. These are beautiful people.
Since we arrived we have spent most of our time along one road leading out of town. It’s along this road that the app. 100,000 displaced Rohingya are taking refuge. Along with those already living along the road in a few small villages, the population has swelled to around 120,000. In this area we have seen one doctor and heard of two others. These three are trying to run a small clinic and also a mobile clinic traveling to the surrounding camps and villages. We have been told that many of the sick cannot be seen and are left to suffer without care or medicine.
Today we visited the largest of the IDP camps. In it are more than 12,000 people. In this camp 4,623 are receiving rations from WFP. They receive 9 cups of rice for 5 days. The remaining 7,541 people are not receiving any help. They asked for 20 bags of rice and so we gladly made that available. We talked with them about their situation and they asked if we could provide seeds and fertilizer. The people in this camp are farmers and have plenty of land. With seeds they can begin to provide for themselves. We spent the rest of the day finding seeds and fertilizer and will deliver it tomorrow. Soon these people will be growing corn and watermelons. They are looking for sustainable
solutions and we are able to help.
Today we went by boat to Sin Da Maw Island. More than 2,000 Rohingya from KyaukPhyu have fled to this island to seek safety. On the island is a village of more than 4,000 people and now the poor fishermen are struggling to provide for their new neighbors. We took with us 180 tarps to provide shelter for the families who are still sleeping out in the open. They had asked for blankets too and so we were able to go prepared with 200 blankets. It’s a humbling experience to hand over
blankets to young mothers with small children. The people shared fresh coconut juice with us and we said good-bye to head for yet more displaced pockets of people.
I am continually amazed with the graciousness of those we meet. Today we talked with the leader of the displaced people in Sin Da Maw. After asking him how many tarps were needed there was much discussion among the crowd pressing in on us. After a fair bit of discussion he informed us that they only needed 100 of the 180 we had brought. He asked us to take the rest to others in need. The crowd could have easily asked for all of our tarps as they already knew how many we had, but they decided exactly how many they needed and asked us to take the rest to others. This has been a common response each day. To me, it would make sense for those in need to think only of themselves,
but our experience is that they think of their neighbors. It is bewildering to be welcomed warmly by people who have suffered so much. These are not the people I expected.
We’re not the only ones who care. We are able to help only because of people around the world donating funds to make it possible. We need additional help to stay here and continue this response.
‘The task is so much bigger than we can handle. We are overwhelmed with the needs. In the camp we are in now they say there are 11,000 people, but I think there are more. There are tents as far as we can see. We really don’t know what to do. The situation is not sustainable. The fact is: THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO SURVIVE IF NOTHING CHANGES.’