Tents Are Tents, Homes Are Homes: A Plea To The International Community For Refugees


The global migration rate keeps increasing and solutions to resolve conflicts seem to be fewer or unknown. Refugees migrate into different countries using treacherous routes. When their lives are spared, some countries have helped with the support of the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to provide tents. These people spend presumptuously sleepless nights in sheets of fabric or other material draped over, attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope. Some struggle to close their eyes under tarpaulins tied to sticks or trees. Others rest their heads under thatched leaf tents or palm front branches in the outskirts of urban cities. Some, if not all, of them could have been living in cemented, brick designed, and safe houses or apartments in their home countries. How long will these people who are unfortunate victims of severe conflicts continue to battle with sleep under temporal shelters? How much longer will children who once slept on soft comfortable mattresses have the opportunity to have restful nights after studying or playing? Are the world’s most vulnerable people going to continue spending fearful hopeless nights in containers at camps or detention centres like aliens from Mars? Hard questions. Now is time for the international community to join hands together to ensure conflicts are resolved faster, and refugees can safely return to their houses for a good night’s rest.

Managing the refugee crisis has had diverse approaches from almost every government as the influx of people becomes untameable. Some countries are experiencing a massive increase in the movements to their countries largely due to their geographical position. Italy, for example, has received thousands of migrants from Africa because of its close border with Libya, whilst Turkey is hosting thousands of Syrians since they share the same border. It is applaudable that the U.S. and U.K. assist refugees by providing them rooms in apartment complexes, but countries like Kenya have had to support refugees by allowing them to live in large camp tents. Sudanese, Congolese, and Burundian refugees among others will attest that they are sleeping under tents which can be blown away should a severe windy thunderstorm begin. These people, who are already under stressful conditions, should not be living in feeble tents. Not all governments who are dealing with their national issues can provide permanent structures for refugees, but it is the responsibility of the governments in the countries where there are wars to work on peace agreements so that refugees can return home safely.

Everyone, especially children, needs a good night’s sleep to live and grow normally. If they have to struggle with these basics, then there is a need for urgent action. It is unbelievable and pathetic that large families are expected to stay and sleep every night in a tiny 4.15 metre-wide, 4 metre-long tent. This means there is little or no privacy for the parents, nor the liberty that the children probably had in their real homes.

For hygienic and good health, especially for women, toilets should not be shared with many people for a long time. However, it is a sad case in camps as everyone is expected to use tent toilets. Women and girls have been raped or sexually harassed several times when they were going to the bathroom at night. How much more longer do children have to dread using the bathrooms because of the distance from their tents especially at night? The filthy toilets and lack of water or electricity in some camps are not habitable for anyone.

In extreme cases, some refugees have had to spend nights under trees or in mud houses. Some have slept under bridges or hid in uncompleted houses. Others sleep in the streets or market places. In dire situations, refugees have had to sleep on paperboard cartons. How can they dream or feel full-body rest if that is their bed? These are humans too, and safe shelter where they can close their eyes stress-free every time the sun goes down is a human right. These people, like any other person, want to sleep on their familiar beds and resume a peaceful life like before in houses with wooden or iron doors, not tent zippers.

It is well-established that where and how long we sleep affects our behaviour. Neurologists have confirmed sleep is important to several brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. Getting adequate rest may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration. Quality sleep is a vital component of every person’s overall health and well-being.

Recommendations

There is a need for immediate intervention and now is the time. Governments in countries where there are conflicts should relieve the burden of host nations who are supporting refugees. It is unfair for them to bear this huge weight of providing social and economic resources for individuals who should have these facilities in their countries. War-torn countries have the responsibility to work on lasting peace resolutions so that present host countries can focus on their citizens. People should not be living in camp tents in another country because of fear of their lives.

This is a plea for all countries in the midst of conflict to re-evaluate the causes of the disagreements and to make sustainable solutions for the well-being and safety of their citizens. Governments in conflict countries should evaluate the negative effects of their environments, especially for the next generation.

The COVID-19 pandemic will affect global funding to organizations like the UNHCR who have been making commendable efforts to provide the basic tents for refugees. When these donations are reduced or not available, the next group of people who might be compelled to migrate from their countries will not be able to have anywhere safe to lodge. Where will they spend their nights? The mental torture is overwhelming and it should be grounds for all conflict to end. No one deserves a life like this. Refugees should not be left to live in tents when they have homes in their countries that should be safe.

Sarah Namondo

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