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I am Sumaya

By Oxfam

Sumaya was forced to leave her home in Myanmar and is now living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. 

Sumaya lives in Thengkhali Camp, a refugee camp in Bangladesh, with her husband and eight children. She and her family are some of the nearly one million Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017 in search of safety and assistance.

When Oxfam spoke to her in October 2017, her family was living on a hilltop overlooking the camp. They didn’t have access to a proper toilet, so they had been making do with a makeshift latrine—or digging holes in the ground when they needed to use the toilet. 

Families use makeshift latrines like this in Thengkhali Camp. Photo: Tommy Trenchard

“There is no latrine and also no place for taking shower,” Sumaya lamented. “There is no toilet or bathroom. The latrines are far away.” She said it took 30 minutes to reach the latrines.

During the daytime, her children would descend the hilltop and dig holes in open space to bury their waste. About 10 to 15 families would use the makeshift latrines. At night, when it was too dark to venture outside safely, people would dig holes near their homes. The smell was unbearable. But without other options, Sumaya said, “somehow, we are tolerating it and staying here.”

Some of Sumaya’s children. Photo: Tommy Trenchard

Oxfam has been working extensively in Thengkhali and other refugee camps since last August, focusing on providing water and sanitation.    

The mass displacement of Rohingya, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from Myanmar into Bangladesh in a matter of weeks, meant that camps sprang up without proper planning, on steep land, and without enough room for adequate shelters or latrines.

“The breakneck speed at which the Rohingya refugee crisis unfolded meant that many emergency facilities were installed in a rush and women’s specific needs weren’t considered,” says Dorothy Sang, Oxfam’s advocacy manager in Cox’s Bazar. “Women and girls are now paying the price in terms of their well-being and safety.”

Oxfam is installing solar-powered lights and providing portable solar lamps so that refugees—women in particular—feel safer leaving their shelters after dark. New toilets with doors that lock and have privacy screens are also being built.

The Rohingya refugee crisis is one of the largest emergencies in the world today and requires a massive humanitarian response.


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