Friday, June 15, 2007

Inside Chogo

I realized while reading back over my previous blog entries that for the most part I haven't given a great description of what life is like inside the camp. I think I have described what it has been like for me, but I have yet to give justice to the hardships that the refugees in the settlement face on a daily basis. I hope that after reading the following paragraphs you will have a better appreciation of the world that I, and the other volunteers, have come to consider as our Tanzanian home.

Life in Chogo is hard. The situation is more desperate that anything I have every come in contact with, including the time I spent in South America. When we first arrived in Chogo we all had blinders on. All we saw was what we thought the people had. A house, a farm, decent healthcare, running water, schools. We thought that the people of Chogo were living decently and within the Tanzanian standards. We were wrong.

To start. The clinic which we thought was available to all the refugees is in fact inaccessible to most. Why can't the refugees use the clinic that was built for them? Well ever since UNHCR pulled out of the camp 3 years ago the refugees have had to pay out of their own pockets for the services provided at the clinic. But there is no economy in the camp. The refugees have little way of making money, and they are not permitted to leave the camp for long enough periods to actually find work and make some money elsewhere. Those that try are picked up by immigration and jailed. So, most refugees don't visit the clinic when they are ill. Those that can afford the cost use the clinic at times but the services that the clinic offers are limited and for most major illnesses the patient must be sent to a larger hospital, this too also costs a great deal. Barely anyone in the camp is able to afford transport. As such, we have been told that many people who become ill in Chogo never get the medical attention they need and often they die because they can't afford the ~$40 US fuel fare to get to the hospital 1 hour away. It is a really sad situation.

The people of Chogo are farmers. But because water is extremely limited and it too must be paid for, many of he farmlands and crops in Chogo are dying. The people struggle to farm enough food to feed themselves, and even then most of them do not eat a balanced diet.

Education in Tanzania is not free. Many of the refugees can not afford to send their children to school. The schools that were built for the refugees by UNHCR are filled with children from the surrounding communities while the majority of the refugees are forced to stay at home and help their families farm. Without education how can these people hope for a future for their children. Parents are the same all over the world. They want the best for their children. They want their children to have better lives than themselves. The parents of Chogo struggle everyday with the fact that most of their children will have less chances and opportunity in life than they had.

So, everyday for the past 4 weeks I have been living along side people who have little food, little access to water, houses built from mud that leak and fall apart, children that can't afford education and very little in the way of proper health care. These people are being denied almost every human right possible. Yet most of them are happy, at least they appear to be. They are extremely grateful that we have come to learn about their experiences, to teach them what we know and to try to tell their story to anyone who will listen.

Hopefully I will be able to write more later and post pictures such that you can all have a better idea of the situation here.

Sorry for the sad post, but it had to be said.
Until next time,

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Heather, Thanks for writing your story. I am doing a documentary about the Somali Bantu. I would like to talk to you about your experiences. Please get in touch at