Refugees in overcrowded bamboo huts, an orphanage of 300 children, the deaths of 40 people each day, and a health centre catering for up to 6000 patients— Dr Kees Lodder and Walter Nasarek have seen it all.
Despite the harsh realities on the ground, the palliative care specialists from Whangārei are keen to return to the largest refugee camp in the world in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh for more volunteer work.
The duo returned last month after spending two-and-a-half weeks helping international humanitarian agencies such as Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders on better care for the elderly, handicapped, and those dying.
The camps are spread over more than 14sq km and house over one million Rohingya refugees displaced from Burma.
"The vastness of the place, one million people living in bamboo and plastic huts in such an overcrowded place where 100 kids are born and 40 people die every day and then there's a rapidly growing population," Dr Lodder said.
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He said a major problem in caring for the sick and elderly was a rapid turnover of Bangladeshi medical staff who used the refugee camp as a springboard for much-needed experience to move on to bigger opportunities.
He and Nasarek, a palliative care nurse, conducted eight days of training with 35 participants in each session.
Dr Lodder said there was only a handful of palliative care specialists in the whole of Bangladesh working like fourth year medical college students with no grasp of general medical knowledge.
Nasarek said the 250-bed main hospital in Cox's Bazar had between 700 and 750 patients and they tried to see as many patients in the short time they had, although their main focus was on training and teaching palliative care specialists.
A couple of sobering stories have had the most impact for the Whangārei-based employees of North Haven Hospice.
One was a 2-year-old with hydrocephalus— accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain— suffering from incontinence and living in a hut with 15 family members.
"Imagine the mum doing the cleaning and washing without any running water. Then there was an orphanage in the camp with 300 orphans and of those, 70 had lost both parents in the Rohingya crisis," Dr Lodder recalled.
"At the moment, there's no future, no job opportunities for those living in the camp. In my lifetime, they'll be there. The world has gone to sleep on the issue of finding a political situation to the crisis."
He and Nasarek are presently negotiating with different non-government organisations on plans to return to the camp in future.
"People often talk about things like respiratory diseases, cancers but there are forgotten elderly, handicapped and dying people that need attention."