How do you raise a family when everything has fallen apart?

Rohingya couple Dilara, 21, and Rahimullah, 24, grapple with this question every day. 

In their makeshift shelter in cramped Balukhali camp, their fourth child was born. They called him Anowar, which means ‘radiant or full of light’, a name which seems hopeful during these dark times.

It was a difficult delivery. Dilara gave birth lying on the hard ground of their tent with only a mat and used sack protecting her body from the bare earth. She was helped by a fellow Rohingya woman who is a traditional birth attendant.

“Anowar is a brave boy. He endured the struggle of me walking long hours at night while he was still in my womb. Now, he has been living in this makeshift tent for a month. But he is a healthy boy,” says Dilara.

Dilara, 21, watches over baby Anowar as he sleeps in the family tent in Balukhali camp

Dilara, 21, watches over baby Anowar as he sleeps in the family tent in Balukhali camp. 

A month ago, the family were forced to flee their home in Myanmar. They left behind their burning village and their hopes and dreams. They crossed Naf River that borders Bangladesh and Myanmar, carrying just a little water and food and a few clothes.

Dilara explains that life in the camp is difficult. Their tent is made out of plastic sheeting and bamboo that Rahimullah, together with his brothers, finished a few days before Anowar came into the world.

The family obtains water for drinking and other household needs from a public water facility shared with fellow camp residents. Their toilet is shared with around 50 people.

“We are starting again from zero. We are still adjusting to our new environment, especially my children,” Dilara says while looking at tiny Anowar who is sleeping soundly in her arms. 

Nur, 7, keeps flies away from baby Anowar as he sleeps in the family tent in Balukhali camp

Nur, 7, keeps flies away from baby Anowar as he sleeps.

While the baby sleeps, Dilara sings a gentle lullaby to her two-year-old daughter Robina who is inside a hammock made from a blanket hanging beside her. Her two other sons, Nur, 8, and Hasan, 7, sit on the ground eating lunch with their hands. 

Their home is sparsely furnished with beds made of sacks and bits of cloth. Aside from cooking equipment, the only other possessions the family own is the hygiene kit provided by Plan International which includes a bucket, jerry can, cups, toothbrushes and soap. 

Plan International is on the ground providing much-needed aid to families in the camp. To date, we have reached over 44,000 Rohingya people, provided 10,000 hygiene kits, installed almost 400 toilets and will be distributing 12,000 dignity kits and installing separate bathing spaces.

After the boys have finished their lunch, they help Dilara keep flies away from the baby, using a piece of paper she got from the relief kit.

When asked what lies ahead for her family, Dilara says: “I don’t know. I have no control of my life now, but I will never give up on my family, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe.” 

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