Following attacks by Rohingya militants in August last year, Myanmar (Burma) military forces responded with a a brutal crackdown.
A huge wave of over 688,000 Rohingya refugees have fled for their lives over the border into neighbouring Bangladesh.
The refugees have experienced unimaginable, barbaric crimes against humanity. Many are traumatised, having seen members of their family and loved ones murdered with machetes, shot or burned alive. Everything they owned has been stolen or destroyed. Now they’re in Bangladesh with absolutely nothing.
Families take a short boat journey from Myanmar (Burma) under the cover of darkness to avoid being shot at or captured by the military, many arriving in Shabrang Harbour in Bangladesh at the break of day.
Often exhausted, hungry and deeply traumatised, the new arrivals sit on the beach in rows, guarded by Bangladeshi soldiers until they can be moved to the nearby reception centre.
The Bangladesh army register new arrivals in a reception centre 1km from the beach. Mostly women and young children then sit and wait patiently on the dirt floor, contained within pens made of bamboo, before buses and trucks take them to the refugee camp.
Many of the men have been killed in Myanmar. Razia (below) escaped with her children and her sister, but Razia's uncle was burned alive during the violence.
We were very scared when we saw the military burning the houses and the people. My uncle was burned alive six weeks ago. I saw people being burned alive.
When I saw my uncle burning we all jumped in the pond and hid for a day. After the military went we came out. The village was totally messed up. The houses were burning. They took our livestock.
We felt we were about to die so we fled. I was hungry – I didn’t eat for 5-10 days. We had a little rice and vegetables for the children.
We walked for two days and stayed with a family. The day before yesterday we got money. When we crossed on the boat it was almost sinking.
Now we feel safe. We have some relatives here in one of the camps but we don’t know where. We hope to meet them.
Conditions in the sprawling Kutupalong refugee camp, which spans 11km by 6km, are appalling. Families are surviving under thin plastic sheeting propped up by simple bamboo. Latrines, wells, shelters and pools of festering water sit side by side - a recipe of disease. The densely populated camp is home to a sea of suffering.
Around 60% of Rohingya refugees are children, including an estimated 12,000 orphans.
Muhamed Ali (below) survived because his father sacrificed himself to protect his family.
My father gave his life to save me. My father went out of the house first to tackle the soldiers. They asked who else was in the house. He just argued with them and said, “Kill me but not my family members”. Then they chopped him into pieces. I just saw his dead body but I didn’t touch it as I had to move quickly.
I heard they took all the dead bodies and burned them. We would normally follow Islamic process and bury our dead but we had to flee.
If Myanmar gives us proper citizenship, rights and a state of Rohingya then we would go back. The whole world should pressure Myanmar to agree these terms. If the Bangladesh government sends us back without any proper settlement, I would say that they should just kill us right here. We would be happier to die here than back in Myanmar.
While some Rohingya have started to return to Myanmar, hundreds of thousands remain in Bangladesh, hungry, impoverished and terrified by the prospect of returning to what is left of their villages. SCIAF is helping some of the most vulnerable families.
Donations from Scotland have already helped provide rice, lentils, sugar and oil, as well as plates, saucepans, glasses and cooking utensils to over 40,000 families. Blankets and sleeping mats to 14,600 families so they can keep warm at night have also been distributed.
We can all work together to bring hope to refugees and our poorest brothers and sisters around the world, enabling them to survive and thrive.
SCIAF are working with Justice and Peace Scotland and renown photographer Simon Murphy to highlight the plight of the Rohingya refugees through a photography exhibition touring Scotland this year. Learn More.
You can also help to share the journey by donating to our emergency appeal for Rohingya refugees.