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Plastic sheets and therapeutic food

Zrinka Bralo
17 June 2008

I went to the mock refugee camp in Trafalgar square this morning. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has set up these for one day only in 20 major cities in the world to highlight the plight of people in Darfur.

I arranged to meet a newspaper journalist there who wanted to write about Refugee Week. I thought it would be good for him to see it. I completely forgot that it might not be so good for me to see it. I suddenly remembered the plastic sheets with the UNHCR logo on them all over my windows in Sarajevo. The glass on all our windows had shattered from shelling within weeks of the war starting and as the winter set in, these plastic sheets became the main feature in the city. They were part of our humanitarian aid. I did not think that the sight of plastic sheets with a logo in Trafalgar square could bring back nasty memories so fast and that I could still be affected so strongly. But I was.

I also looked at the special food that UNHCR delivers to refugees in Darfur. One shiny packet of something jelly like had a very interesting label on it - "therapeutic food". I'd never seen this before. I did not see what it was made from. How far away is the world where food is therapeutic from our world of obesity and celebrity fad diets? Not so far. A young women from Sudan was walking around the square in a UNHCR T-shirt, with the same logo I had had on plastic sheets to protect me from the bitter cold of the Sarajevo winter in 1993. She was talking to tourists and visitors about refugees and UNHCR as I was talking to a journalist. Fifteen years on, Sudan and Bosnia in Trafalgar Square for one day only. Plastic sheets and therapeutic food, sadly for many years to come to many places around the world.

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