Fieldset
The alternative Glastonbury

There’s no point in sleeping anymore. We’ve all been awake for hours, silently wondering how on earth the camp population survived the night.

There’s no point in sleeping anymore. We’ve all been awake for hours, silently wondering how on earth the camp population survived the night.

And we soon find out. The rainstorm, relentless during the night, has transformed the camp into one big lake. The market, bustling with activity yesterday, is swimming in water, the goods bobbing on the surface. People are wading barefoot through water up to their knees. Children are regularly falling in, re-emerging in tears. And women are looking around in despair, shivering, a child balanced on each arm.

Flooded camp ©Ruby Siddiqui/MSF

And I wonder, after the Maban refugee crisis two years ago where Jamam camp was located on essentially a swamp, why we find ourselves in almost exactly the same situation. Surely the UN agencies learnt then that not only is it impossible to manage a camp in such a setting but it’s unacceptable for people to be forced to live in such an uninhabitable place.

Our WatSan guys are running around assessing the situation. The brand new latrines constructed yesterday are collapsing. Haydn says they just didn’t have enough time to set. Adrien is heading for the flooded health post and sees a woman stranded in her home surrounded by water. He wades through and transports her children one by one to the other side. Leo has located pumping equipment, but where do we pump the water to? We’re already at the lowest flattest point. The water would just come straight back.

The gang decides to investigate a wall blocking a river. Perhaps they could knock that down and water could drain out along the river. They arrive and realize they can’t reach the wall to examine it. Eventually Ian just wades in and is soon swimming (in highly suspect water!). A local man passes by and asks what he’s doing. He’s soon kicking off his shoes and wading in to help. We’re impressed. But it’s all ultimately to no avail. They’re not going to be able to knock down that wall. We’ll have to explore other possibilities.

Improvised boat ©Ruby Siddiqui/MSF

I’m wondering around the camp with Ivan. All we can do is take photos, evidence of this misery. We watch an entrepreneurial man who has converted a strip of corrugated iron into a boat.

 

Investigating with Ivan ©Ruby Siddiqui/MSF

And I joke non-humorously that this is just like Glastonbury, minus all the good stuff like bands and beer. And Ivan says, imagine if this was it. You had nowhere else to go. The few worldly goods you have are now submerged in water and you don’t know where you will sleep tonight. And outside the camp there is shooting and fighting. Imagine.