20 Dec The gift of life: Christmas message from our Director
“Today we welcomed new-born Mohammed Yousuf. Both mother and baby are doing well. His father is very happy and can’t wait to introduce him to their community”.
One year ago, this message announced the birth of the first baby delivered in our MOAS Aid Station in Shamlapur, a few months after the beginning of our mission in Southeast Asia. To the end of November 2018, our Aid Stations in Shamlapur and Unchiprang provided medical assistance to over 90,000 children, women and men. Our patients were members of the Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities who received free medicine and healthcare in an extremely volatile environment, created by the arrival en masse of more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar starting on August 25th, 2017.
Mohammed Yousuf is the first child of a young Rohingya couple. Since his birth, he has come to the MOAS Aid Station in Shamlapur for regular check-ups. His mother, 25 years old, was also born in a Bangladeshi refugee camp, where her parents sought sanctuary in 1994 during a previous exodus from Myanmar. In the 1990s, persecution pushed around 250,000 Rohingya to cross the border into Bangladesh, and 20 refugee camps were created to welcome new arrivals. However, controversial repatriations began soon after, despite strong opposition from international human rights organisations. By 2003 there were only two camps, where some 50% of the population was severely malnourished.
Between September 2017 and May 2018, it is estimated that “more than 16,000 children were born in refugee camps and makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazar.” This means that “around 60 babies a day are taking their first breath in appalling conditions, away from home, to mothers who have survived displacement, violence, trauma and, at times, rape.” Moreover, to May 2018, only 18% of new mothers delivered in a medical centre assisted by professionals. The aim of the MOAS mission in Bangladesh has been to provide humanitarian aid and high-quality medical assistance, and stand in solidarity with the Bangladeshi government in its effort to welcome a historically persecuted community. From the start, the MOAS medical teams have made a huge difference to thousands of patients in Unchiprang and Shamlapur.
Mohammed Yousuf gave deeper meaning to the Christmas season and to our mission. The wish of my family in creating MOAS was to help other families in need, and once again, this wish came true. At Christmas time, we do not merely celebrate a festivity: the new-born baby embodies our commitment to celebrating and protecting every single life. Christmas for us is the smile of a new mother, the very first cry of a baby, and the joy of a father relieved that his family is in a safe place.
Since the launch of our mission in Bangladesh, we have treated 42,370 children and confirmed our commitment to assisting the world’s most vulnerable migrant and refugee communities. The MOAS Aid Stations have stayed open even in extreme weather to guarantee medical care to those in need. They have been used as vaccination centres in cooperation with the WHO and Bangladeshi government, and have become a place where anyone can find assistance, sanitation facilities, clean water and toys for their children.
Our wish for Mohammed Yousuf’s family is that their dream will come true, and their son will become a doctor in a place where many are illiterate because of a lack of proper education. Moreover, we wish a merry and joyful Christmas to the MOAS family of donors, supporters and volunteers everywhere. Let’s commit ourselves to looking at every single human being as the most precious gift.