Distressed Rohingyas and Bangladeshis find refuge in free medical facility


A physiotherapy clinic in south-east Bangladesh treats Rohingya refugees and their Bangladeshi hosts’ side by side.

The clinic was set up by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in July 2018 to serve both the host community and Rohingya refugees and does not charge patients any fees. The clinic employs two physiotherapists and two assistants.

One of the patients here is Hazera.She is a grandmother and a Rohingya refugee. She fled Myanmar in 2017 with seven children, and four grandchildren.

She first started to feel a pain in her shoulder.It became so severe that she could barely move her arm. A neighbour, a Bangladeshi woman, told her about the Shamlapur physiotherapy clinic.

“I had no money,” she says. “I came here because they told me it was free.”Hazera hesitated before coming, but the physiotherapy was so helpful that she returned for several more sessions.

“I feel better,” she says. “The pain is much reduced.” But she still has trouble moving her arm.

“Back in Myanmar, these people never received any proper medical treatment,” NaushinAnjum, one of the clinic’s physiotherapists says. “At first the refugees seemed to be very afraid, but we started by motivating them, and explaining everything properly. Gradually they came for treatment.

Most of the patients at the clinic are, in fact, Bangladeshi – 874, compared to 286 Rohingya between the July 2018 and October 2019. This reflects the population in the area: 16,319 Bangladeshis compared to 10,210 Rohingya.

For the Bangladeshis, as well, the clinic is something new. “In Shamlapur they have never had physio before,” Naushin says.

Now they come with their ills and injuries.

Programmes that support both refugees and their host communities will be one of the topics under discussion at the Global Refugee Forum, a high-level meeting to be held in Geneva later this year. States, the private sector and other actors will announce high-impact contributions that will give refugees a chance to thrive alongside their hosts.

In another treatment room in the clinic, GolamKibriya is receiving massage treatment on his bent back. He says he is 100 years old.

“I was pretty good until a few years ago,” he says. “Then my back began to hurt terribly. They had to carry me here.”

His lower spine suffers from curvature. The physio lessens the pain and prevents the muscles in his legs from wasting further.

“I feel much better now,” he says. (Source: UNHCR)