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Local doctor offers aid to refugees overseas

As Rohingya refugees await repatriation, several hundreds of thousands are in camps in nearby Bangladesh after fleeing the violence seen in Myanmar.

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Shawnte Passmore
OMAHA, NEBRASKA — As Rohingya refugees await repatriation, several hundreds of thousands are in camps in nearby Bangladesh after fleeing the violence seen in Myanmar.

The conflict in southeast Asia hits close to home for one woman.

Dr. Sehr Haroon works the overnight shift at the University of Nebraska Medical Center while spearheading her humanitarian relief aid organization, S.E.H.R. Mission.

Since last November, her non-profit joined Projects for Humanity out of Texas and volunteers in Bangladesh to provide help by raising funds for food and medical supplies for some camps.

There are 600,000 to 800,000 refugees there and that number keeps growing, she said.

The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority in a mostly Buddhist country. Many of the refugees are children.

Kea Huq, a Bangladesh native, is part of the effort and says what's happening overseas is genocide.

"You cannot even imagine yourself in their shoes," Huq said.

On a recent morning, both women stare at a phone as they view pictures and videos with an occasional smile.

They're not looking at the widespread images of the Rohingya people escaping, children who are malnourished and villages burning to the ground.

Instead, they're watching their help in motion more than 8,000 miles away.

Roughly $10 a month can feed a family for a month, Haroon said.

"I would say it was very bittersweet because the need is endless," she said. "You feed 2,500 orphans for three days and then you realize that's just a drop in the pond."

Monirul Islam of Projects for Humanity said the groups are looking to carryout long-term assistance.

Recently, the Myanmar government opened holding camps for the refugees as it conducts a vetting process.

However, the United Nations said the country needs to make sure the Rohingya people are being protected and not further traumatized before returning.

Humanitarian watch groups say Myanmar violated human rights and committed violent acts against the minority group, but the government vehemently denies those accusations.

While repatriation is underway, Islam says the groups are trying to provide basic necessities.

We've built bathrooms, we've built water wells and we built a pre-school to offer education to the children, he said via a Skype interview.

Haroon said there's still more work to be done.

We've already sent a shipping container over, but now we're trying fill up another one with medical supplies, she said.

Once there, the shipping container will be used for a medical clinic, she said.

"If people want to get involved, they can bring clothing, school supplies and non-perishable food items," she said.

The work can be overwhelming for a small network of volunteers.

"There's this urge to want to do more," she said. "But at some point, you're kind of limited."

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