Yusuf's Week of Fire in Rohingya Camp 5
Facing the Unthinkable,Twice in Three Days
Yusuf (name changed), at 62, carries the weight of a life that's been anything but easy. Twenty-nine years ago, he left Buthidaung, Myanmar, seeking refuge in Bangladesh. He worked tirelessly, from driving rickshaws to manual labour in the fields of Cox's Bazar and Chittagong.
In 1998, he went to Saudi Arabia on a Hajj visa, and then stayed on. For seven years, he worked to support not just his immediate family but extended relatives too. During this time his wife left him yet he continued his support. His seventh year abroad ended abruptly with deportation, and the loss of all his savings was a harsh blow.
Back in Bangladesh, Yusuf's health started to falter. He developed liver and kidney issues, and his family worried about his weakening heart. Despite this, he remained determined, and once told his brother he would continue to fulfil his duties, regardless of his health.
This resolve was tested further when, in a single week, Yusuf experienced two devastating fires. The first, on 7th January, took away his home and everything in it. With nowhere to go, he sent his youngest children (from his second wife) to his brother's shelter, unwilling to leave his camp for fear of losing his ration during any audits by the camp administration.
Just three days later, another fire destroyed the neighbour's home where he and his family had found temporary shelter. Initially unscathed, Yusuf was later found unconscious, a silent indicator of the trauma he'd endured. His brother, concerned by Yusuf's monosyllabic responses, suspects the fires have deeply affected him.
The fear of further misfortune continues to loom large. Earlier today, 11 February, when the Camp in Charge warned his brother’s camp to stay vigilant against more fires, Yusuf, gripped by a sense of foreboding, insisted his children stay with him rather than spend the night at his brother’s shelter. "I fear bad people are hunting us," he said, an admission of his inner turmoil.