ONE MAN’S MISSION TO REUNITE LOST ROHINGYA CHILDREN WITH THEIR FAMILIES IN BANGLADESH - Soul 2 Soul Mates Blog

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11/24/2017

ONE MAN’S MISSION TO REUNITE LOST ROHINGYA CHILDREN WITH THEIR FAMILIES IN BANGLADESH

ONE MAN’S MISSION TO REUNITE LOST ROHINGYA CHILDREN WITH THEIR FAMILIES IN BANGLADESH
Mohammad Haniba and his wife could not eat from the worry. They had managed to keep their family together during their escape from the killing in Myanmar and the treacherous
journey to Bangladesh.
Now, in the sprawling Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh’s southern port of Cox’s Bazar, they had lost their child. Two-year-old Mohammad Mubarak was separated from his mother, Shumseul Naher, as she went to collect plastic sheeting from a distribution point.
For four days, he was one of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who lost their families during the vast exodus of Rohingya people from Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
But Mohammad’s story has a happy ending: he became one of the hundreds of children who has been reunited with their families because of one man.




Local hero
Kamal Hossein, 33, is a long-term Rohingya refugee who has been in Kutupalong since 1992 (there have been successive migrations from Myanmar over the years). He uses a microphone and PA system to call out the descriptions of missing children to passers-by, so they can be reunited with their families.
Mr Hossein’s mission to become a kind of one-man aid organisation began on 27 August as the latest of influx of Rohinya refugees arrived at the camp.
“I was on my way to work as a security guard for a charity when I found a woman crying,” he explains. “I asked the woman what happened and she told me she lost her son, Jamal Hussein, when she went to get food.




“As a Rohingya, I had to help her. But I thought to myself, ‘what can I do?’ So the next day I went to [the nearby] Kutupalong bazar and hired a microphone for a week for 3,000 taka [£27] from my own pocket.”
Using his speaker system, he shouted the child’s name, age, home village and parents’ names. The stall Mr Hossein uses is located on a busy thoroughfare, and people walking through passed along his message. Within three hours of his first announcement, Jamal was safely back with his mother.
He had been looked after for the night by another family. “They first embraced and started crying,” says Mr Hossein of the reunion. “Sometimes I can’t control my tears.”




UN support
By then, more parents had come forward to ask for his help finding their children.
It is a common sight – and a serious concern to aid workers – to see very young children wandering alone through the camps. They are a difficult place to navigate, particularly for a confused and potentially traumatised youngster, and present a minefield of hazards.




International NGOs working in the camps are overstretched and underfunded, and quickly saw the effectiveness of Mr Hossein’s one-man service. After he returned his hired microphone, the United Nations’ refugee agency supplied him with his own equipment. He also charges refugees’ phones for free, using equipment donated by a businessman from a nearby town.
Mr Hossein’s records are imprecise, but he shows i a scrap of paper which details that between 5 September and 9 October, he made amplified calls for 1,455 people, of which 789 were reunited with their families.
And it is not just children that he helps. As we speak, Anowar Sadek, 35, wanders over, dressed in a torn yellow T-shirt and a green Burmese longyi. He arrived in Kutupalong confused and disorientated earlier in the day and became separated from his wife and children.
After speaking to him, Mr Hossein lifts his microphone, calling out: “Anowar Sadek is from Hermora Para, he is lost and missed his family, Rokeya and children. Please bring the family to the mic and information desk if anyone finds them.”
Mr Sadek desperately talks to bystanders, trying to figure out where he left his family. After a while, he leaves to try to find them.

Emotional toll
Mr Hossein’s service is the only one of its type in the camp. It has taken a financial and emotional toll on him – he looked after one girl in his house for 22 days until her family finally reached her.




“I just think about how I would feel if I ever lost my own kids,” he says. “I thought about it the time I saw the first woman. I wondered, ‘If my son was lost, who would help him?’ I feel better for doing this, so I don’t mind having spent my own money on it.”
The service has made Mr Hossein a well-respected member of the exiled Rohingya community.
“I cried so much when my child came back,” says Mohammad, 30, of the reunification with his son.
“I feel so lucky because my child could have been in an accident, but we have him back.”
He adds: “Kamal is a good man who helps people in a horrible and difficult situation. He must get everything from Allah.”
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