10-year-old Harisa and her family have travelled for more than 20 days to get from Myanmar to Bangladesh. She arrived in late August 2017, and is now living in the camps with her mother and five siblings.
Her home back in Myanmar was near the main road. The military burnt it down with launchers in the middle of the night. Her youngest brother, barely two years old, was killed in the fire.
The military were firing shots randomly at everyone in the village. Harisa’s family had to flee immediately, unable to recover the infant’s body. A shot fired at her mother, leaving her arm severely wounded. Her father wrapped her arm with a cloth, but she grew weaker and number with pain. They kept running still, in fear of being caught and tortured.
Harisa and her family jumped into a river, swam across and entered the forest. They stayed in the forest for over two weeks. She does not remember the exact number of days since it was so dark and quiet. She could only hear children crying. Hungry and tired, they ate plants, leaves and whatever they could find.
After several days, it was finally safe to leave. The military had left, so they ran to a nearby village. There were burnt houses and dead bodies everywhere – shot, slaughtered, tortured and burnt. Harisa’s father cried out at the sight of the bodies, praying for peace and forgiveness.
The military heard her father’s cries and returned to the village. They tied him up and killed him as his family watched from behind the trees, waiting to retrieve his body once it was safe.
However, they did not leave. Instead they sent hunting dogs which attacked and ate her father’s dead body in front of them. The dogs soon began to chase them. They ran, eventually finding safety by climbing up and hiding in trees.
Desperate and traumatised, her family followed other Rohingya families who were making their way to Bangladesh.
At the border, someone from the military found them out and asked why they were escaping. Some of the men answered:
“You are torturing us and we cannot live like this”.
They were instantly shot and killed.
Harisa and her remaining family were allowed to cross the border, but were robbed of all their money and valuables.
In Bangladesh, they lived on the road under the sweltering heat for five days. Some locals gave them dry food, bananas, rice and eggs. On the fifth day, someone graciously gave them some money.
They bought bus tickets and started towards the camps. They had heard that the other Rohingya families from their villages were living there .
“I am happy to be here,” says Harisa, “My family is now safe. I like that I can study here, and play with other children in the child-friendly spaces.”
“But at nights, sometime I cannot sleep. I think about Myanmar. I see dreams of my little brother and I miss my father.”
We are running 215 child-friendly spaces in Cox’s Bazar, providing children with safe spaces to learn, sing, and play, and receive psychosocial support from trained counsellors.