Sight of Grace
Brazil 1980 | Ethiopia 1984 | Mali 1985 | Korem 1984 | Brazil 1983
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Ethiopia
Health
Analysis
Reflections

      War breaks out in the city/country where you live.  You fear for yourself and for those around you.  You decide to flee with your family, friends, and neighbors to another country to escape the impending danger.  You travel for miles to get to the border.  As soon as you cross the border you become a refugee.  You become one of the 39 million people worldwide who have been uprooted from their homes by war.  After fleeing your home, your first priority is to find safety and shelter from the glaring sun, the harsh wind, and pounding rain or snow.  While traveling you hear information about a camp that is being set up in a neighboring area.  So along with thousands of others, you begin your walk to the camp. Your journey takes you through countryside that is littered with landmines.  You come across many people and animals who have been killed and injured by the landmines.  You are one of the lucky ones.  When you found out about the camp you were also told how to avoid and recognize landmines.  They are embedded into the ground and are easy to step on.  It is important to be very cautious about your route.  You continue traveling as cautiously as you can.  Finally you reach the camp and begin your registration.  You are registered by camp officials and are immediately vaccinated against measles, polio, and pertussis.  Being vaccinated is critical because of the overcrowding in camps which causes epidemics to spread quickly.  Now that you are living in a camp you and your family will probably get sick more often than you did before the war.  Of the serious diseases, you and your family are at greatest risk for malaria, acute respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, and measles.  Once registered, you receive simple building materials, or you could be assigned to a tent.  You find yourself sharing a very small space with many people-your family, neighbors, and complete strangers.  Once settled into your tent you are quickly recruited to help with building efforts while others help with the medical and social programs in the camp.  You are now living among thousands of people in a remote camp away from danger.  Your next order of business is to get food for your family.  The only way to obtain food is from the aid agencies who work in the camp.  You will have to get used to far less food and little choice in what and when you eat.  Not only are you worried about where to find food, but where will you find water in the camp?  The average person only needs a bit more than one gallon of water per day to survive.  In the initial phase of an emergency (or war), this may be all you receive, as the aid agencies struggle to find sources of water and to transport it to your camp.  The aid workers strive to provide five gallons per day for drinking, cooking, and washing.  Five gallons is about the same amount  as one dishwasher cycle.  You are finding it very hard to adapt to such a limited supply of water.  Shelter, food, water.... what else do you need?  How about a clean place to go to the bathroom.  That is also a necessity in your camp because without a proper waste-disposal system in place, diseases that cause diarrhea, such as dysentery and cholera, can break out and spread quickly.  You are especially worried about this because you have little children and dysentery and cholera are a leading cause of death in children under five years old.  While walking around the camp you notice that latrines have been built.  They should help keep the area clean and safe.  You look around at the other people in the camp and realize how lucky you are.  You see many malnourished families and little children who are in desperate need of help.  An aid agency, such as Doctors Without Borders, at the camp does its best to help these endangered children with intensive treatments when they first arrive at the camp.  Upon registering, malnourished children are checked into a therapeutic, or intensive-care, feeding center and worked on for a few weeks or until they are back to a healthy level.  Malnutrition is the world's biggest killer of children.  It contributes to nearly six million deaths a year.  It can kill on its own or make its victims more vulnerable to other serious diseases.  You walk back to your tent with tears in your eyes.  Your time at the refugee camp has only just started.  You have no idea how long you will be there or if you will ever return to your home.   The odds are you won't and until you start rebuilding, this camp is your way of life.