The Rohingyas in Bhasan Char gathered in front of their warehouse under the scorching sun on Friday morning to collect the materials. Then they happily returned to their houses on the island.
When they were living at the Balukhali Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar, Fatema Khatun, Nur Jahan and Parveen Akhter had sewing machines and would have work for at three of four days a week, earning anything between Tk 300 to Tk 500. They left behind or sold off the sewing machines before coming to Bhasan Char. So other than routine housework, they had nothing to do and no income at the end of the week. That is why they had no complaints about the scorching heat as they waited for their sewing machines on Friday. Quite to the contrary they were elated. Nur Jehan said, “I had no work for the past six months and my husband had no work either. We somehow scraped through. Now with this sewing machine, I can work. I am so happy.”
Among the 13 items distributed among the Rohingyas to help them with their livelihood, were fishing nets for 800 of them, 100 sewing machines, 50 rickshaw vans, 5000 local ducks, 5000 local chickens, 45 haircutting kits, 28 shoes repair kits, 25 rickshaw van repair kits, 7 sets of electrician’s equipment, 50 sets of carpenters tools, grocery store items for 100 persons, and fish fry for 200.
Director of Asrayan Project 3, Commodore M Rashed Sattar told Prothom Alo that humanitarian assistance, including food, is being provided to the almost 19,000 Rohingyas who were brought to Bhasan Char in December. He said other than this emergency humanitarian assistance, it was undeniable that they needed a means of livelihood too. That was why on behalf of the prime minister these materials were distributed among them. He said they were basically given items which they were skilled at using. Also, over 10,000 fish fry had been released into the 38 ponds there. He said, “We hope that the materials given to the Rohingyas will meet their requirements.”
Rubel, who had come from the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, was sitting on one of the rickshaw vans which were lined up there. He said he had a wife and three children. In Cox’s Bazar he would earn money from a rickshaw van, but didn’t have that opportunity for the last seven months.
Rohingya fisherman Zia Rahman was standing in front of the warehouse with a fishing net. He had been a farmer in Rakhine, but will catch fish in Bhasan Char.
The Bhasan Char project was designed to relocate 10,000 Rohingyas and lift the pressure off the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar. When the first batch was shifted to Bhasan Char in December last year, the United Nations objected. However, two assistant high commissioners of the UN refugee agency visited Bhasan Char recently and said the UN would join in with the Bhasan Char work at the end of the rains before the remaining 80,000 Rohingyas were relocated.
The Rohingyas have been shifted in eight phases from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char starting from December last year. Presently there are 18,521 Rohingyas on this island of Noakhali district. These include 5,319 women, 8,790 children and 4,409 men.