There are some things in life that are simply taken for granted when you grow up in a first world country. Simple things like electricity, running water, food on the table, and sanitary products hardly ever cross your mind during daily life. It’s almost a if you just expect them to be there when they are needed. As a refugee, these simple things are far from ever-present in daily life. Rather, they are a sign of true luxury enjoyed by few and listed after by many.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Palorinya Refugee Settlement in Moyo, Uganda. Upon arriving at the camp, it was discovered that the World Food Program, a subsidiary of the United Nations, was in the process of handing out their monthly rations to thousands of refugees crowded around an open space in between two large trees on either side. John and Tim decided that it would be a great idea to try and get some footage of the events taking place. The scene that unraveled before our eyes was absolute chaos.
From the moment we set foot in the large area where food distribution was taking place, there was an overwhelming sense of desperation in the air. Thousands of people were racing across the open space trying to get there hands on the precious few rations that the World Food Program was distributing that day. One wrong step and you would have been tranpled by a horde of desperate refugees jostling to get the best spot in the line for rations.
At some point amongst all of the chaos, Herbert and Isaac approached John and I to talk about the possibility of interviewing a woman refugee. Almost as soon as they approached us with the idea, John and I were back in the bus tearing through the camera bags in search of some impromptu audio equipment for our XC-15 camera. About 5 minutes later we were standing under one of the two large trees, surrounded by a large crowd of children and elderly, conducting an interview with a woman refugee named Betty.
Betty gave one of the most profound interviews of the entire trip in my opinion. She was raw, unfiltered, and incredibly angry about the situation she was facing. She spoke about the harsh realitites faced by refugees. The rations were simply not enough to last for the entire month. Some of the rations were rotten and so poor in quality that they caused stomach issues and a variety of other health related problems Betty and her four dependent children. At one point she made a comment about how even the village animals wouldn’t touch the rotten corn rations. The most impactful statement that she made had nothing to do with food. Rather, it was a comment about how she didn’t even have any soap for washing. She couldn’t even sell some of the rations in order to purchase soap.
This comment has stuck with me following the impromptu interview. How could something that I’ve overlooked my entire life such as soap be such a luxury for a refugee like Betty? How is it just that something as inexpensive and common as soap be a luxury for an entire refugee family? With such wealth in the world, I am outraged that there are refugees force deep to eat rotting food and unable to wash with soap. This is injustice in action. This must change…