'These people need our help'
Singapore Red Cross workers on Cox's Bazar crisis
Two Singapore Red Cross (SRC) workers had a first-hand experience of the human misery in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
Ms Charis Chan, 28, and Mr Nazeer Basir, 36, can at least take comfort that they brought some joy, however fleeting, to the refugees when they distributed US$30,000 (S$40,800) in relief supplies, including rice, salt, oil and dhal.
As part of SRC's advance team, they spent six days in Bangladesh earlier this month.
During their trip, the duo saw naked, starving children queueing for food as the stench of human waste hung in the air.
There were heavily pregnant women carrying bulky food packages in the scorching heat at the camps, which were bursting at the seams. Some tents had up to nine people squeezed inside.
The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority from the Rakhine state of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. The Myanmar military has been accused of committing various atrocities to drive the Rohingya out of the country.
The United Nations said that more than 500,000 Rohingyas have fled to Cox's Bazar since August.
Temporary camps have been set up to accommodate them.
Conditions are harsh and food is scarce, with the refugees relying wholly on organisations like the SRC, Mercy Relief and Global Ehsan Relief.
Ms Chan said: "People would be queueing for two to three hours even before we started (distributing relief supplies), and you could see how afraid they were of losing their place in the queue.
"The camp we went to didn't have food distribution for five days before we arrived," added Ms Chan
In her five years with the SRC, Ms Chan has been on disaster relief teams for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, the Nepal earthquake in 2015, and last year's and this year's floods in Sri Lanka.
Mr Nazeer, who has been with the SRC for seven months, was in Rakhine previously to distribute relief supplies to communities affected by floods.
The pair hope more Singaporeans will come forward to help with the Rohingya crisis.
"These people really need help," said Mr Nazeer.
What struck them the most from the trip?
"The smiles on the faces of the refugees when they got the food package. That was really something," he said.
How to donate
By cheque: Cheques can be made payable to 'Singapore Red Cross Society' and posted to Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane, Singapore 238486. Please leave your name, postal address and indicate Rakhine Humanitarian Response Fund at the back of your cheque. Donations to overseas efforts are not tax deductible.
In person: Donations can be made from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, at the same address.