World Refugee Day
Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees counted the total number of forcibly displaced persons around the world as a staggering 82.4 million people. That’s more than three times the entire population of Australia!
That statistic – like so many others we’ve come across in our first year of running Borne – is just a little bit too big to get your head around. I wrote about this in our first blog post (at some point names become numbers, and numbers don’t tell stories like names do) but days like today are a much-needed reminder to do exactly that: to revisit those things we can’t get our heads around, and to take a step back to think about the world beyond our everyday lives.
82.4 million refugees means 82.4 million unique stories to be shared, each one different and powerful in its own right. Still, they are connected through some shared emotions: an urge for survival that is desperate enough to lead people away from their own homes, and a dream of hope and safety that is neither known nor guaranteed.
Our mission at Borne Clothing is to work for a future that is free from mosquito-borne diseases. A key driver of that goal is the reality that diseases like malaria are entirely preventable. We can stop them from spreading. World Refugee Day is a keen reminder of that truth, because a significant number of those 82.4 million refugees will find the hardship of malaria even in the safety of hard-earned refuge. The sheer determination to flee your homeland and take refuge in a tiny pocket of an overcrowded and at-close-quarters refugee camp is a demonstration of strength of character, but it means nothing at all to mosquitos. Instead, an overwhelming number of millions of refugees become a population vulnerable to mosquito-borne diseases.
“Everyone should spend their nights under a mosquito bednet.”
— Jacqueline (see below)
Part of the reason we chose to work with NothingButNets is because of their focus on a whole bunch of different communities at risk of malaria. In fact, we’ve joined up with them at a good time, since they’ve spent the past six months supporting the work of UNHCR to tackle mosquito-borne disease in refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A mosquito-net can make a world of difference to people who are worlds away from home. There’s a whole lot more to say about the stats and the figures and the stories, but I’d like to leave it to the faces and names behind the numbers.
Here are just a few of them.
Originally from the Central African Republic, Awa currently lives in the Inke refugee camp where she makes a living baking and selling cakes. The mother-of-five is well acquainted with the high risk of malaria in the area, having experienced her own son contracting the disease. “I brought him to the health centre,” Awa recalls, “My son received pills, to take three different pills in the morning, then the same three, once again at night for three days.” The treatment was successful and her son soon regained his health.
Fleeing war in the Central African Republic, Jacqueline has spent her past six and a half years in the Inke camp. Here, she lives in a household of nine. As her husband recently returned to the Central African Republic, Jacqueline is grateful for the cash assistance she receives, making her able to keep providing for her family. “The cash assistance I have received has enabled me to do some small trade,” she says, adding, “and allowed my family to survive.”
Having had to flee her native Central African Republic due to war, Rosie has spent her past six years living in the Inke refugee camp. She earns an income in informal trade, buying and reselling things around the camp. “I sell spinach, sweet potato leaves and so on,” she says. Since arriving to the camp, Rosie has given birth to two children, and she is currently 6.5 months pregnant. Upon having her first child here, she went to the camp’s health centre. “When I started to go into labour, I came here and the delivery went really well,” she says, “After that, I didn’t have any problems.”