Helping Mohammad to dream of a better life in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Age-Friendly Spaces in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, run by our partner HelpAge International, have been a lifeline for older Rohingya refugees like Mohammad who arrived at the world’s largest refugee camp with nothing and were physically and mentally scarred by their experiences. Mohammad told us the support he’s received from an Age-Friendly Space has enabled him to dream of an even better life than before, despite living in a city of makeshift shelters.
64-year-old Mohammad and his family were forced to uproot their lives in Myanmar in 2017 after the military burned down their houses, land and crops and killed cattle. They walked for three days to reach the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and at first, there weren’t even enough tents for everyone. He remembers this as the day he began his new life.
“Despite hundreds of difficulties, I began my life in the open mountains in the struggle for survival.”
Eventually, they moved into a makeshift shelter but the frightening experiences Mohammad had gone through left him trembling and unable to eat, with no strength to move and shortness of breath, even though back home he had not suffered from any physical problems and had raised cattle and grown crops.
Mohammad was relieved when he heard about HelpAge International Bangladesh’s Age-Friendly Space, a one-stop shop where older people in the refugee camp can get hold of essentials like clothes and supplies free of charge as well as accessing healthcare and social activities. He had a health check which found he was acutely malnourished, so he was supported by the nutrition officer to improve his health. He was even provided with glasses to help his eyesight.
“The Age-Friendly Space made radical changes in older people lives... I received clothes including a lungi and undervest, as well as a blanket, prayer mat, candle, sandals, hot water pot and spectacles, a consultation with a physician, nutrition meals and regular check-ups”.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the Age-Friendly Space staff went door-to-door delivering hygiene kits of soap, washing powder and face masks, and raising awareness of the virus in the community. Even though Mohammad was not well enough to visit the Age-Friendly Space at the time, they ensured he continued to receive support.
“I could not go to the Age-Friendly Space as I became very mentally and physically weak during that time. The nutrition officer, community volunteer and protection officer visited from time to time to check up on me and advise on my recovery”
Mohammad is still working on rebuilding his strength, but in December he received a cash grant from the Age-Friendly Space which has enabled him to buy chickens to sell at market. He has already sold two and he hopes that his small business will continue to grow gradually as he recovers – he’d like to own a chicken shop in the market one day.
“In this makeshift life I dream of being better than before, I will make myself work again - this project has created this opportunity for older people”.
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Older people in the poorest parts of the world affected by conflict or living in refugee camps need help urgently to survive the silent threat of COVID-19.