CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago area medical professionals are responding to the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, as part of an all-volunteer program called Medglobal.
Tracy Ibgui, a registered nurse from Clarendon Hills, traveled to the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, to help victims of what the United Nations calls a genocide; mass killings of Rohingya Muslims by the government in Myanmar.
The depravity that caused more than 1 million Rohingya to flee from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh haunts Ibgui, a mother of two.
“There were definitely stories of throwing the children in a fire, and then forcing the mother to watch, and then afterwards violating her and then letting her go so she had to live with the memory of watching her child burn,” she said.
One mother who shared her story with Ibgui was brutalized because she’s Rohingya, a persecuted minority group in Myanmar. More than 1,000 Rohingya have fled to the Chicago area, but 1.2 million have fled to Bangladesh.
“You look around you, and you have a sea of tents. You cannot actually see the border of that camp,” said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a Chicago area physician and co-founder of MedGlobal.
Conditions at the refugee camp in Bangladesh are abominable.
“You have two or three families in every tent. They don’t have even blankets to cover the floor,” Sahloul said.
Sahloul founded MedGlobal in order to address catastrophes like the one facing the Rohingya. They took action in the face of what they see as global inaction.
“To let the world know that this is happening, and that we should not be turning away,” Sahloul said.
That’s why, in July, Ibgui was back in Bangladesh, training midwives in neonatal techniques that can be put to immediate use in the camps.
“That would be translated into saving lives of thousands of babies,” Sahloul said.
Lives transformed through life-saving medicine, or the simplest of gestures, as exemplified by Sahloul’s small gift to three children.
“I gave each one of them two Tic Tacs; and they looked at it, and they looked at me, and they started to smile and laugh as if they owned the whole world,” he said.
That’s because, when your world is shattered, a sign that others care can make all the difference.
“Caring about what’s happening past our own borders is just a form of humanity, and that child that burned is as valuable and as beautiful as a child here in America,” Ibgui said.
MedGlobal volunteers have donated more than 17,000 hours of time to help Rohingya refugees. Those medical professionals have helped more than 80,000 people during the past two years.