Friday, January 27, 2006
FIRE IN THE CAMPS
We’re in the middle of the dry season here. The intense heat, dust and wind makes the people in the IDP camps even more vulnerable. Last week there were massive fires in 4 large camps. One camp, Amoro, saw 450 grass roofs burn, resulting in the death of 3 children. A friend of mine who was there said, “You can’t imagine, even if you saw it, you couldn’t believe it”. As we discussed this issue in a United Nations Working Group on Child Protection, an INGO representative said, “This is our fault, we are to blame. We knew this was coming, and yet we’re working with the aftermath of the fires without taking the proper preventative measures. Child-headed households are cooking meals with little to no concept of how to manage a fire for cooking. Look even now, we’re reacting to the catastrophe of the fires and making no plan for preparing the camps for the rainy season-which causes even more damage and claims more lives.” Everyone can become frustrated at the circumstances here. Some NGOs blame the camp residents for setting their own homes on fire so that they can receive non-food aid from the government or INGOs. I personally have a hard time believing that, and others I’ve talked to feel as though that response is given out of sheer frustration at the immense challenge of keeping the people in the camps safe.