A day in the life of a refugee: why should we care?

UNHCR 2018 March

UNHCR set up the first camps in the Dadaab complex in 1991 to host up to 90,000 people. Today they host more than 463,000 refugees. © UNHCR/B.Bannon.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Gustavo Bitencourt Caetano Barros, currently a medical student at Instituto Metropolitano de Ensino Superior in Brazil. Mr Gustavo Bitencourt Caetano Barros is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belongs to the writer and does not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

In the last two years, we’ve seen a lot about the migration crisis: boats sink, people die, countries became refugee camp and governments disapproving it. And now you may think: why should we care about the migration crisis?

Dear reader, you, as myself, might live in a war-free country, in a cozy house, with your parents and money to do whatever you wish. There’s no such thing as refugee or migration crisis around. And then, I ask you again: is it really valid to think about this entire situation?

To make my point of view, you’ll have to know a little about me. I’m Brazilian, medical student, middle class, white. With that in mind, you’re probably wondering “why does this boy is writing about something he can’t even imagine? He should do something about poverty, corruption or anything else that matters in Brazil”. And if you do, I cannot disagree. My country have a lot of problems, we have people dying of dehydration, malnutrition and a lot of other causes. So, why I wrote this article? Since the first step I walked in the medical school, I knew I was there to try as hard as possible to bring healthcare for those in need. That’s my reason.

By saying that, if there isn’t much I can do where I live, writing may be one way.

According to the BBC, more than one million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe. Most of them by sea. They are risking their lives to escape war. The main driver is Syria’s conflict. Besides that, we must consider other ones, live violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, the abuses in Eritrea and poverty in Kosovo. Furthermore, this migration crisis is a global phenomena. For instance, Brazil also welcomed more than two thousand Syrians in four years. And other countries did the same.

With that in mind, we should take a moment to think about health conditions all these people have. They travel to a different country, suffering in the route to the better life. If they didn’t die, must adapt to the new culture, and, more important, probably be discriminated. So, isn’t just change the place you live, is a whole new life. They get physically and mentally exhausted. And who is there to help? Do they get access to a health system? Are there physicians able to attend them? If we want to take good actions, we should consider it all.

And, for all the doctors around the world, a tip: Since all countries have their main endemic diseases, consider take a time to study a little about them.

In conclusion, I think that, of all the recent tragedies we, as a global community have been through, the migration crisis is one that we could control. We’re not able to control an earthquake, but we can control ourselves, avoiding wars. We cannot stop a hurricane, but we can offer shelter for the ones in need. We cannot solve the hunger in the world, but we can share what we have. By that, I mean, we may not be able to prevent every tragedy from happening, but we have the power to change our community into a net of good people.

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