Zillur is an emergency guy, which is particularly useful in Bangladesh, a country that endures way more than its fair share of disaster.
Cyclones, landslides, and flooding are a fact of life (and death) in this country of 160-plus million people.
In fact, Concern’s first response to a major natural disaster came in the wake of Cyclone Bhola, which may have killed as many as 500,000 people when it made landfall on November 10 1970.
But it was a manmade crisis that confronted Zillur when he first joined Concern as a fresh-faced 22-year-old in October 1992.
Nearly a quarter of a million people had fled across the border from Myanmar into south-eastern Bangladesh, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing military activity. Because he was from the nearby Chittagong district, Zillur was well placed to help. “I recruited a team of local people, and we provided health and nutrition services to the people in need. We did that for three years.”
25 years later, that local knowledge would again be invaluable as another wave of displaced Rohingya - this time over a million people - came streaming into Cox’s Bazar while their villages across the border went up in flames.
It was there that I first saw Zillur in action, striding purposefully through the chaos, stopping occasionally to engage with the exhausted, injured, and traumatised men, women, and children who had come here to seek safety. By now a seasoned staff member, as soon as word of the crisis reached his office in Dhaka, he had immediately assembled a team of 14 people and they hit the road.