There, in the center of Moncton, New Brunswick, a refugee camp like none seen before around here.
Doctors without Borders, or better known world wide as Medicins sans Frontiers (MSF), http://www.msf.ca
has set up a display and I was privileged to see it. A nurse took us through. First we were shown the housing. Some of the very items there were taken from refugee camps to show us exactly what the accommodations were like. Corrugated steel, wood, straw, twigs, even feed bags, and in front would be home made toys, such as soccer balls made of tape and plastic, dolls from rags, and toy cars from scrap metal or pop bottles. Shoes made from old tires, even. All sitting beside the gas cooker. Needless to say, MSF see burns on children as a result of playing too close to fires, but when you have less than 10 feet by 10 feet to call home for then next 20 years, you are going to be cramped.
We moved on to the food drop display, being shown the basic fat and meal biscuits that are dropped from planes in the early days of a disaster. Nothing appetizing, but designed to fill tummies.
Moving on, we stopped at the latrines. We usually have four people to two or three bathrooms here, but a latrine in a refugee camp would be a double hole in the ground, far away from the camp, totally unsafe and designed to service about 700 people. The rubber mat and pictures are designed to show you how to use it. Some refugees have never even seen toilets or latrines.
Don't bother to ask for toilet paper. That's what your left hand is for.
We moved on to water. The average westerner will use 100-300 litres a day, but as a refugee, you will get 5. Yup. Five litres or about one gallon. If conditions improve, you may get up to 20. No wasting water here.
We stopped at a tent that talked about the psychological effects of being a displaced person, and I nearly cried at the artwork, actual drawings by children of what they'd witnessed. You think your nine year old boy draws bloodied pictures. These kids actually saw this stuff, and the dismembered bodies and butchered livestock and raining bullets will cut you to the quick. We had to quickly move on.
Next was the Cholera station. We needed to pass through disinfecting spray and into the hospital, filled with folding cots that had holes in the center to catch the waste into a bucket beneath. But Cholera kills, and needs to be treated quickly.
The tent we visited next was by far the most heartbreaking, and I thought it was the one with the pictures until I reached here.
The malnutrition centre weighed babies and measured upper arms and the nurse showed us what they do for starving babies. They're given a nut butter paste, enough to last two weeks, with instructions for mum.
But with mum going home to other starving family members, or the offer of a trade for rice that everyone can eat, or worse, to a culture that gives male children more than female children, the babies often come back the same weight. MSF called the nut paste medicine and gives incentive rewards to mums, such as blankets, if they fatten their babies up. It's a complicated issue, and when MSF asks countries and governments to allow them to go in, they know they are facing difficulties caused by a variety of issues. But to see children suffer, it was hard.
We ended the tour with a trip to the vaccination clinic. And began to learn that MSF offers hope to many displaced persons and works hard, is totally volunteer and its reward is knowing you, as a medical staff member have done what is right.
Such was the hope we were left with. And an eye-opening look at how much of the population lives. And how to be grateful for what you have.
Souvenirs - a romantic suspense