We geophysicists are very fortunate in the circumstances of our work in the Nayapara and Leda Refugee Camps. We are now interacting very closely with the refugee community. And we can have translation facilitated conversations about some quite intimate situations – water sources, distance to latrines, number of persons in the household, time spent collecting water, etc. However, the really heavy conversations about what happened in Myanmar are optional. Very much like after the Boxing Day Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and very much unlike the refugees of Kakuma, I find the Rohingya are very open to talk about what happened in their homes and villages.
Personally, though, I am not yet ready to listen. I can somewhat comfortably absorb the deplorable and insane conditions we are now seeing daily. The fact that the lack of clean and sufficient volumes of water has a technical solution, and we are here trying to do something about it, makes it easy to dive back into the chaos each day. But there is no solution or explanation to the atrocities that took place on the opposite side of the Naf River….and all in full view of satellites, dogs, and other wonders of modern day technology.
Working on Holocaust sites in Eastern Europe has taught me that there are no bounds to the creativity of evil. Returning to Kakuma again and again has taught me that people can adapt to living in the most insane conditions, though those on the outside would glibly call this human resilience. Seeing the havoc in Uganda from 23 minutes of civil war, waged by the would-be magician Joseph Kony and a tiny army of 3,000 soldiers, along with thousands of child soldiers, taught me that governments can actively choose to do nothing when there is every reasonable reason to do everything.
We missed seeing Canada`s special envoy, Bob Rae, here in Cox`s Bazar. Rather, I prefer to think that he missed seeing us. In fact, besides the UNHCR staff that occasionally drop by, we do not see any westerners or foreign NGO workers in the camps in the south….just us and the client, all tens of thousands of them.