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Reporter’s View | Verena Hölzl on covering two sides of a refugee crisis

‘It felt like going back and forth between two completely different worlds.’

Refugee homes in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Rohingya refugees have etched their fragile homes into slippery hillsides or along floodplains. Aid groups fear a cyclone or monsoon rains could be a disaster in Bangladesh’s packed refugee camps. (Verena Hölzl/IRIN)

Journalist Verena Hölzl moved to Myanmar to cover the country’s transition from junta rule to democracy. What she found was even more complex.

A wildly diverse society with long-running conflicts on multiple front lines, Myanmar now faces charges of genocide for the military purge and persecution of its Rohingya minority.

In this Reporter’s View, Hölzl describes the night-and-day experiences of travelling between her home city of Yangon in Myanmar, where anti-Rohingya sentiment dominates, and the teeming refugee camps of Bangladesh, now home to nearly one million Rohingya.

“It just felt like going back and forth between two completely different worlds,” she says. “In Myanmar, you would have people take to the streets in support of the military, while on the other side of the border I witnessed this humanitarian crisis.”

Hölzl has continued to cover the story both in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Her reporting for The New Humanitarian has explored immense violence and deprivation – but also the more mundane aspects of daily life in the middle of an emergency.

“The Rohingya aren’t only victims,” she says. “As journalists we also owe them the stories that humanise them.”

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