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  • Writer's picturekwankew

A Newborn in the Transit Camp

No one seems to be able to tell us how many refugees are now in the transit camp. In the morning there are a few stragglers coming to be registered. The intention of the Red Cross, UNHCR and the Uganda Office of the Prime Minister is to resettle the refugees as quickly as they can so that Nyakabande Transit Camp remains truly a transit camp ready to take on a sudden influx of refugees. The flags that are flown here represent the Red Cross, Uganda, UNHCR, World Food Program and Medical Teams International.

These children follow me around wanting their pictures taken. The girls guide me to their tent one of these girls evidently put on her best for this occasion. The boys are shyer and follow quietly but to me somehow despite their dirty clothes and shoeless condition, there is a certain dignity about them; they all stand proud and tall with heads held high, shoulders erect, and chest thrust forward.

Today is warmer than yesterday, the fog burns off early in the morning, refugees and Ugandans troop in to be seen. The newly arrivals have found us and are bringing in their babies with diarrhea and I loath to give them oral rehydration packets that they have to mix with possibly contaminated water if they have no means to boil their own water. Breast-feeding remains the most efficient way to hydrate the babies.

The mother who sustained a cut over her eyebrow returns and manages to bring with her a piece of jagged broken mirror, wanting to have a look at her face once the dressing is taken down. I am glad she did not see the gash before it was sutured.

At the end of the day, we go back to the camp in search of a newborn. The kitchens fires are burning evening meals are being prepared. The afternoon rain is still falling, we skirt the muddy puddles and two tents away from the kitchen we find a one-day old baby completely swaddled, left alone in a bundle in a corner on a folded mat. When he is uncovered, his eyes remain closed, his fist swiping his face aimlessly and he starts to root. Half of the floor in the tent is wet and muddy and in another dry corner is a lone bundle of clothes with no blanket in sight. The mother returns and picks him up. Her resilience and will to go on are amazing, she does not look like a mother who just gave birth rather she moves around with ease and with no signs of trauma. The baby looks peaceful oblivious to the seemingly insurmountable problems of this world, least of all the wet floor and the cold night to come.

The full moon shines over the row of eucalyptus trees in front of the Bam Rest House, it provides some semblance of lighting for the camp which has no electricity but the threatening clouds are floating close by like the conflict in the homeland of the refugees weighing over them with no hope of a light at the end of a long tunnel.

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