Chronology of a new transit camp on the Tunisian border (Part 2 of 2): Going live

Reda Sadki Published articles

Part 1: Like clockwork | Part 2: Going Live

10:45 – The distribution of relief items starts

At the far end of the camp, four volunteers led by Arturo, a logistics specialist from the French Red Cross, get basic relief items ready for distribution. The items are NFIs, as we call them, or non-food items.

11:00 – A clean bill of health for the camp’s youngest baby
Omar is just 20 days old. If the International Organization for Migration (IOM) can find the funds, he should be out of the transit camp and back in his home country before he turns one month old. His sister, four-year-old Khadija, cries as Boutheïna talks to their parents, Aïcha and Mohammed. “She’s scared,” they explain. It turns out her lip is cut and hurting.

Aïcha will also sit down with Marwa Ben Saïd, 22, a fourth-year psychology student from Bizerte, who meets them in the psychosocial support tent. The camp’s children will also be called back to be checked for vaccinations and overall health. The camp’s emergency tents are now up and running 24/7, with an impeccably clean and well-organized pharmacy and space to receive up to four people at a time.

11:25 – Families under the tents
Khaltouma and Admadaoud are part of an extended family of 24 people. They have settled into six tents and next to each other so that they’re not separated. They lived in Libya for nearly two decades, raising children and building their lives. Khaltouma’s husband had a steady job as a driver. “We left because of war,” she explains. Last night they managed to
make it to the border. “When will we be able to go home?” is her first question.

13:30 – A news agency visits the camp
The national press agency Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) arrives at the transit camp. Journalist Boutar Raouda stops at several tents to listen to people’s stories. She also meets the

14:55 – A new era for the Tunisian Red Crescent
The transit camp waits for more arrivals. Moaz, the tent builder, has been a volunteer for almost half his life. He is here to help, but also because he hopes that the dramatic events of 2011 will lead to a new era for his National Society.

15:00 Another bus arrives
The next bus arrives with 19 young men. There are no hiccups.

15:30 – Water, please
Inside the kitchens, Selhouah, 50, and Imane, 25, women from the local community, have joined Livia, Mulass and Layna. Outside, Marco, a water and sanitation engineer, gets the water purification system ready.

15h40 The first house call (or tent call)
An anxious young man walks into the health tent. His cousin is sick and has trouble walking. So Dr Chem Chem Abdelnour visits their tent, and finds an older man, who is obviously exhausted. “His head hurts,” they say. The doctor invites him over to be examined. There are already two more people waiting for care back at the tent. Boutheïna welcomes them and keeps track of patient intake.

15:52 – “Camp is now live”
“Camp is now live. Tx to all for all the hard preparation.” The text message arrives via SMS. It’s from Roger Bracke, the IFRC’s head of operations. If everyone had not been so focused on their work, a loud cheer might have been heard rising above the hubbub of life in the transit camp.

18:30 – Last bus of the night
One more bus arrives before nightfall, bringing 27 new arrivals to the transit camp.

19:30 – Dinner is served
The kitchens serve their first meal, as the camp starts to wind down for the night. There are now 123 people at the camp with 13 families and a total of 28 children under the age of 13, and 4 elderly people over the age of 60. Almost everyone is from Chad (106), with 16 people from Mali and 1 Ghanean.