Monday, September 25, 2006

A Crash Course on 33 Million Refugee Surrounded by Park Slope Affluence

Prospect Park Refugee Camp Five

Gowanus Lounge made a point of stopping by the "refugee camp" set up by Doctors Without Borders in Prospect Park and spent an hour getting a tour of the facility from a Canadian nurse named Christine Nadori. The "camp" was set up from Sept. 20-24 and drew thousands of visitors. The experience was depressing and enlightening at the same time, bringing us back to the war zones we've been in and serving as a weird counterpoint to the affluence of Park Slope and to the carefree play going on in the park just 30 yards away.

No snarky remarks or jokes in this item.

The camp was set up to draw attention to the plight of 33 million refugees and "internally displaced persons" around the world and to the conditions in which they live and the challenges they face. Ms. Nadori has worked to save lives in Afghanistan, Burundi, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Sudan among other war torn spots.

"Setting up a refugee camp is like the ultimate NIMBY," Ms. Nadori said about a problem that most governments are loathe to deal with.

Among the things we learned are that 75 percent of all refugees are women and that, of course, they are at risk of every form of exploitation and violence that you can imagine. We were introduced to such things as BP5, a horrendous looking basic nutrient, and to the term "shitting field," which is what they call the outdoor bathroom area in a refugee camp before enough hole for latrines can be dug. We learned about health care in refugeee camps and that there are different kinds of malnutrition and that nurses use bands to measure middle upper arm circumference to judge the degree of a child's malnutrition. We learned that cholera is entirely survivable as long as proper hydration is available and that "cholera beds" are cots with a hole cut in them and a bucket underneath.

The camp has been touring around. If it comes back to New York again, we highly suggest a visit. A few more photos are below.

Prospect Park Refugee Camp Three

Tourguide Christine Nadori

Prospect Park Refugee Camp Four

BP-5, basic nutrition.

Prospect Park Refugee Camp One

Cholera tent with bed.


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