A little video for Irish Aid

As I come to the end of my time here in Cox’s Bazar, Irish Aid had asked if I would do a short video message for Christmas and the New year, so on Christmas afternoon, I headed down to the beach here outside my hotel in Cox’s Bazar with Dan, another of the information management people here. He is currently working with UNFPA. After a few attempts of trying to record with people looking and me making a mess of a few takes 🙂 we ended up with a nice 2 minute clip. I would like to say a big thank you to Dan for helping me to record this. Makes it much easier when you have someone holding the phone to record 🙂

If you would like to see the short video on some of the work I was doing here you can access the links here.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IrishAidCentre/videos/1758567754162055/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/irish_aid/status/946397781748604928

 

 

 

 

Visits to Kutupalong Settlement

Visits to the refugee settlements is like watching a city develop in a short space of time. The largest of the settlements is called Kutupalong. Map below is one I have done up as part of my work as an Information management office for Food Security Sector.

This is the largest of the settlements, with it filling east to west. As new people arrive, they move to the zones to north west and south west. Areas to the east are more densely populated (each of the grey items is a household or building). The road on the map is a new road the military are building to try and help facilitate  access to the western and central areas of the settlements where populations are moving to. You can see where WFP currently have Food distribution points and as the new road is completed which facilities access with trucks, WFP are planning additional Distribution points to help meet the growing size of the settlement. 

In my two months here, I have visited the settlement on 6 different occasions. Some in part of my role working with the Food Security Sector  and others going out to to walk along the edges of the settlements to gather GPS points, scout out new sites for locations of food and examine where new arrivals are going. All of this helps to get an overall view of where there is people in need of food.

Live in the settlement is always changing, in my early weeks here, there was people just in lines collecting food, cooking materials, water etc. In my most recent visit to the settlement I have seen children flying kites, playing football and having fun sliding down the sand and clay mounds in place as the road is under construction. I also have seen may more small market stalls pop up and more facilities in the areas. You can see that people now are starting to build their lives here. Now, I should point out, this is still a very hard life for people, what I describe is just some of the small positive side of how people are dealing with all they have gone through. This is still a long way from a normal life.

The children have picked up a few words of English, you hear “Bye Bye”, “Hello how are you” and I have tried to learn a few local words to say hello back , which often causes great laughter, especially in how I say it, I am not the best with languages, maybe I should try google translate 🙂

I have a few pictures of life in the camp on this link.

A selection of Photos

First Week in Bangladesh

So after all of my best plans to keep writing, it did not happen. Work as usual is keeping me very busy but here we go with my reflections of my first week in Cox’s Bazar. Arriving at Cox’s Bazar airport reminded me a lot of the small airports when I was in Papua New Guinea. You get of the plane, take a short walk to the terminal building to avoid the sun (at least for me) and then you wait for the luggage to come along on the baggage cart where you go outside, pick it off the cart and walk out. Nice and easy 🙂

There a driver from WFP was waiting to meet me, very friendly guy and was happy to chat with me on my trip to the office. My new manager Damien was keen that I start as soon as possible so no time for stop to hotel. Looking back now on this, 7 weeks later, I see this was a very good indicator of how my first few weeks would be. It was nice to get to meet Damien having talked over email and Skype for the days before my arrival, trying to get a little of the background of what I was going into. I then met Rony, who is the Food security cluster Information manager who was covering down in Cox’s Bazar while they were waiting for me to arrive. Rony is one of these people you meet who always tends to have a positive view on things, likes to get things done and always super helpful. Knew that I would get on well with him. I remember the first few days, Rony was always on the phone, people calling looking for things, and as he joked at the time, I would soon understand why and he was right 🙂

For lunch, Rony took me out to a local place and at first I was unsure what to eat so he ordered a selection of dishes and I think he could see I was a bit unsure of what it was so he explained that is would also be very spicy. Thanks to him, I have got to try a lot more of the local foods.  The great thing of having a person from Bangladesh with you is that you get to know more of the local culture, build up connections with locals faster and you learn what works best in terms of getting things done. (Over the last 7 weeks, Rony and Damien have both given me a massive amount of support and help getting up to speed on things and helping me out)

Work was crazy the first week here, more so that I had to learn a lot, get to know new people, understand all of the moving parts for something that was totally new to me. You got up at 6:30am and went to bed usually after 12 midnight when you finished your last report. Food distribution was on going (see next post for more details on this)  so each night I had to collect data from all of the different organizations giving out food and put this into a report. However to do this, you had to wait till abut 10 pm when they got back from the field, did they own checks and then send in the data. Learning on a few tips from Rony, I kept it very simple, just asked the people to text me in their figures and locations and I would do the rest. I knew how tired many of the organizational staff would be after long days out, so wanted to try and keep it to the bare minimum for them and I would take on the extra work to put it all together.

The one thing that we were lucky was we have a nice hotel to stay in, so you get a little bit of comfort to relax for an hour or two in between leaving the office and starting work for the night. As always, the bar in the hotel was where you would find me a lot of the time, pop down for food, and enjoy chatting with people. As always a good spot to mingle with people and learn about what others are doing. I would often go do first myself to just sit down have a bite to eat on my own, catch up on news from home and just let my mind relax, then sit down with others and start chatting, few drinks and having a laugh. One thing that is always important when working long hours is to take that time to enjoy yourself and mingle.  I guess I am lucky like that, I find it easy to talk 🙂

 

 

 

First days on my first deployment as a stand by partner.

After having a hectic 4 weeks, I get to enjoy a day full to relax and unwind. As I write this , I am siting in a cafe at hotel I am staying in, eating a nice chocolate gateau and enjoying some local tea.

My trip started with a flight from Dublin to Rome, where I had one day to meet the Global food security team and got a quick refresher training on what I was to do as part of my new role as information manager for the food security sector in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. I would be working with the influx of Rohingya refugees, helping to gather and coordinate data across all partner agencies in what WFP had just classified as a level 3 emergency.

It was really great catching up with the team again, following on from the training in June, they were as helpful as always and reassured me they could help me at any stage if I needed their support. The team gave a debrief on what was expected and what I would be required to do. I left there thinking, ok I can do this, seems grand. If I only knew ( hint, after 4 weeks I get to write this 😊)

My first experience was arriving into Dhaka got off to a funny start. I was about to go thought security and someone was waving at me and calling me over. It seems they thought I was someone else who they had come to collect, so after establishing I was not that person and had a laugh over it, they kindly help me get though security and guide me with what paper work I needed to fill in. It is one of the things I love about travel, you met so many random acts of activities that take place.

From there, I met my driver, and I got to experience my first view of Dhaka traffic, all I can say is, WOW. I thought Cairo was crazy but this is a whole new level. My driver explained it is not uncommon to be in traffic for hours, and I can well believe it 🙂 You need to be a positive strong driver, move out when you get a chance, beep a lot to let people know you coming, and try to avoid everything around you!!

Eventually arrived at hotel and was told I could buy beer at hotel, at first I was wondering why that was special did they think it was important to tell an Irish man there was beer😂😂 but then I realized, selling beer is not everywhere in Bangladesh, so that was why they made a point of telling me.

The following morning, I got picked up my driver and made my way to the WFP office in Dhaka. That was an experience, up and down between floors to fill in paperwork. And each time I had to sign in and out as I left a floor. By end of day, the security staff were laughing with me that I was back again and again. Of course, I made for the IT department who kindly set up my new SIM card, and got to have a quick tech talk with them. All of the staff in the office were friendly and helpful. Am very grateful for all of their support and help. Had my security brief, and when I told them what hotel I was staying in, they said, of very nice, you were lucky to get in there. So I figured well at least my accommodation in Cox’s Bazar must be nice.

After day in office, back to hotel, went for dinner there and as it was quiet, I got talking to local staff about sport as I waited for my food. Started off with football and then moved to a talk on kabaddi, the national sport of Bangladesh. I got to watch it on tv and the staff explained to me the rules and how is it played. Best way to describe is something to Olympic handball/basketball. Of course I then had to share our national sports so showed them hurling and GAA. The hurling they thought was a crazy sport 😊

I then went for a short walk around the hotel, trying to get an ATM, only to find that MasterCard is not commonly accepted, so it took the help of a local hotel staff to show me where there was a few other ATMs. Finally I could get out my money 😊 I was now all set for my morning trip to Cox’s Bazar and my new base of work for 2 months.

New Irish President

So after all the talks and debates, we have a new Irish President, Michael D Higgins. Out of all that did run, he either got peoples number 1 or a lot of number 2’s. It will be interesting to see what direction he takes the presidency. He has also been someone who loves the arts, and a big campaigner for human rights, a very well spoken man, and has the nice quality of been able to add a little humor when he talks. I really hope that he will help push forward Ireland on the international scene when he gets a chance. At this moment in time with all going on in Ireland, banks failing, government looking for more powers, high unemployment and emigration, people struggling to survive, Europe not letting us write of bad loans to their banks and a number of other things that a few years ago seems impossible, it may well be good to have a man who is passionate about life, arts and protection of the most vulnerable, representing Ireland abroad. Someone who will sell Ireland to the world, show that while the country went though terrible times, the Irish spirit is still there, bubbling away under the surface, waiting for the day to come where it can burst back onto the International stage.

Busy week

This week started off with me cycling into work, first time this year, and nice to get into the mood for cycling again. Sadly, had not been cycling the  previous week as I was recovering from a  chest infection. The joys of air con buildings, they help spread infections around. Monday and Tuesday were fine, but on Tuesday night I woke up at about 5 am with a terrible pain in my lower back and it running all the way up my shoulder. Not a great feeling, let me tell you. After about an hour it seemed to die down, however, I still was not feeling the best. Drove to work that day and during the day still had a little pain at the base of back. On way home from work, decided to called into the doctor. He did a few tests and it turns out I now have a kidney infection. He thinks that my chest infection must have got into the blood and then infected my kidney. I have to like how he is I was very unlucky for that to happen, and then add, if this does not clear up with antibiotics I will have a series of tests to go though, X-rays blood tests and the like. Hers hoping my luck improves. On plus side it did mean 2 days off work, and so a long weekend 🙂  Just now waiting for Monday to see if things have cleared up. If not, it could be a much longer break from work.  Was happy I left my laptop at work on Wednesday, stops me from working from home when I should be resting.

Today I  had to go and get my car its full medical, or NCT. This is where cars older than 3 years must get tested every 2 years to make sure they are safe for driving. Now some of the tests seem a little useless but am sure they there for a reason, other than making money 🙂  Thankfully my car passed with flying colours. Just in time for the upcoming GAA league campaign where no doubt I will be around the country seeing how well Sligo get on.  On down side with the price of petrol now almost 1.50 a liter, it is costing €60 to fill it, I might have to start driving at a very slow pace to get maximum efficiency out of the car.