Shofika's Story: Motherhood as a Refugee
In August 2017, Shofika fled violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar, and crossed the border into Bangladesh with her husband and three children, ages six, four and two. She sought shelter in the Kutupalong Expansion Site refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, that houses more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees. It is currently the world’s largest refugee camp. In early 2018, Shofika became pregnant with her fourth child.
Shofika and her family receive visits every 10 days from Muhammad, a Community Health Volunteer (CHV) trained, equipped and supported by Community Partners International (CPI). Muhammad is a fellow Rohingya refugee. During these visits, he provides Shofika's family with supplies such as soap and oral rehydration salts (ORS), monitors their health and provides advice to help the family keep healthy.
In September 2018, when Shofika was in the late stages of pregnancy, Muhammad visited the household and learnt that Shofika was suffering with acute watery diarrhea. With cramped and overcrowded living conditions, and limited access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, diarrhea is a common health issue in the Cox's Bazar camps, and poses a particular danger to young children and pregnant women.
Concerned about Shofika's health and that of her unborn baby, Muhammad gave her packets of ORS and offered to refer her to a local health facility for further care. She accepted and Muhammad accompanied her to a nearby camp hospital. She received treatment and quickly recovered. On October 11, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Both mom and baby are doing well.
Through Muhammad, CPI also provided Shofika and her family with a water filter approved by the World Health Organization to help prevent diarrhea. "It's like a dream to have drinking water of such good quality," says Shofika. "The water from this filter is like medicine to me and it tastes much better that the water straight from the well." Since they started using the filter, no one in Shofika's household has suffered from diarrhea.
Raising children is hard in the refugee camp. Shofika’s husband was a day laborer back in Myanmar and managed to get similar work in nearby host communities when they arrived in Cox’s Bazar. However, he lost his job in August 2018 and life is now more difficult. The family receives basic food supplies of rice, oil and pulses through the World Food Program (WFP) but without any income they struggle to supplement their children's diet with nutritious foods like fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. The family also struggles to afford firewood to cook their food. Before she gave birth, Shofika pawned her jewelry so that she could afford to buy supplementary food and firewood. When this money runs out, she is not sure what she will do but she tries to remain optimistic. “If my husband can find work our lives will be better,” Shofika affirms.
CPI is investing in building a network of Rohingya Community Health Volunteers to provide the essential first line of health services to Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar. Shofika's story illustrates the benefits of having trusted health volunteers embedded in the community and available to respond 24/7 to the needs of fellow refugees.
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