Meet Whocef, the Kutapalong cat

He belongs to the family of Imam Hussain who lost his leg,  his wife Halima Khatum and their five children, who live in Kutapalong Rohingya refugee camp in south-eastern Bangladesh.

Pets in the vast camps are a rarity – hardly any of about one million Rohingyas have them — which makes Whocef all the more loved.

About 750,000 Rohingyas were forced out of Myanmar at the end of last year by the Burmese military, including Imam, Halima and their family.

A woman holds a cat while a man grabs onto its paw.
©UNICEF/Bangladesh/2018/ChakmaHalima Khatum with her husband Imam Hussain, who lost his leg, play with Whocef who lives with them and their five children in Kutapalong Rohingya refugee camp in south-eastern Bangladesh.

“The cat brings joy to our lives,” says Halima. “My husband lost his leg after he was shot by the army when we fled Burma a year ago, and it is a struggle to survive here.

“But we love Whocef because he is adored by my children and catches rats which are a big problem in our shelter at nighttime.

“When we lived in Burma we had two cats and a dog. We have always loved animals in our family.”

Whocef got the first part of his name from the World Health Organization and the second part from UNICEF.

A cat playing with string
© UNICEF/Bangladesh/2018/Chakma“We love Whocef because he is adored by my children and catches rats” says Halima.

The family asked WHO and UNICEF Communications Officers Kate Marshall and Alastair Lawson Tancred to think of the best name for him, and their suggestion was accepted.

Halima says the cat is about two months old and was found a week ago, near a tube well used by the family to collect fresh water.

Getting enough food in the camps is always a problem for many refugee families but Imam and Halima always put a little aside for Whocef, who survives on a diet of rice and vegetables in the family’s bamboo and tarpaulin shelter.

Every night the cat sleeps alongside the couple’s seven-year-old son Ridwan, who attends a UNICEF-supported Learning Centre for six days a week.

“Whocef likes to roam around the camps during the day and we are worried he won’t return at night time,” said Halima. “But he always does.

“We’d be lost without him.”


You can follow Whocef on Facebook and Instagram.

Alastair Lawson-Tancred is a UNICEF Communications Officer. He is currently in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

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