Thursday, December 11, 2008

Death by falling jerry can tower

I went up to the transit center for all the very newly arrived refugees today – 7,900+ people in a green fields site that didn’t exist one week ago. I’d never been to a brand new site before, my previous knowledge of influxes has always been into sites that were well established.

Well, wow, chaos.

The organizations there are doing as good a job as they can, really, and things were relatively organized. But just imagine, we’re driving down a road, village village village, jungle jungle jungle, I’m looking off to the left at some kids when the car stops suddenly and I turn to my right and oh-sweet-jesus. A huge, newly cut field is there, hemmed in by low hills on all sides and, in the middle, white tarp huts as far as the eye can see. Out of nowhere.

We pulled in to the middle of it and park next to a two story high pile of yellow plastic jerry cans, the jugs refugees use to hold water. Around that are huge piles of wood, stacks and stacks of rice and beans and, everywhere, women in kangas waiting in lines. Lines as far as the eye can see. Lines everywhere. People are waiting in lines and they aren’t even sure what for. On the outskirts Save the Children has set up some sports fields for children to play and they’re kicking balls, occasionally shanking one into the queues of women.

We get directed to a big tree under which sits the government representatives, who very kindly give us a briefing and give us permission to be in the settlement. Then we go out and start talking to the refugees.

Every time my team and I stopped somewhere we’d be mobbed by people. All desperate to have someone listen to them. We told them over and over we couldn’t so anything for them, but they didn’t really seem to care. They just wanted to share.

“The rebels came and my family and I scattered, I went back and my children were gone, then the rebels came again. I had to run, now I don’t know where they are.”

“We haven’t received food in a week and don’t have a shelter, my children and I are sleeping outside and it keeps raining” (It was raining and blowing a bitter wind at this point)

“My wife and children got taken somewhere else, I don’t know where, they got on a different bus. They have all our things, I have no clothes and no money.”

“We’ve been given one plate for me and my seven children, I don’t know how to feed them all.”

On and on and on. We would dutifully write everything down, say we would be sure to report it and then say “you know we can’t do anything about this?”

They would all say yes, but they just wanted someone to listen to them. Sometimes they would clap for us, just for writing it down.

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