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i-ACT21 Day 9: The Edge

Fire Destroys Homes in Camp Goz Amer

By Gabriel Stauring


Most of them have already experienced this trauma at least once before. As Mariam told us yesterday, anyone over thirteen years old is likely to have seen their villages completely destroyed, burned to the ground in the flash of violence that made them refugees.

At camp Goz Amer, fires are a common event. The homes, made mostly of grass and sticks, are highly overcrowded, and wind gusts and children playing are easy involuntary arsonists. It is not a question of whether there will be a fire or not. Fires are a certainty. The questions are: when and where they will start, how big will they be, and will there be any casualties?

The refugee population has grown considerably since the camp was first established, but the area in which the refugees live remains close to the same. This creates a situation of overcrowded homes. When a fire starts, it will jump from home to home to home, before the refugees can respond to put it out.

The fire today burned more than 20 homes. Women tried hopelessly to save food from burning, but the whole area was still like a furnace, and most just gave up and broke down in tears.

Believe it or not, this fire was not one of the bad ones. Families rushed from all over the camp to throw water and sand on the flames, and “only” two refugee were injured and taken to the clinic.

They tell us that after fires like this one, the affected refugees receive no assistance from humanitarian agencies. They are expected to deal with it on their own, since they are on their way to self-reliance. Neighbors, very poor themselves, must help the victims that now have nothing, pushing everyone closer—and maybe over—the edge.

Peace, Gabriel