Doctors Without Borders Creates Virtual Refugee Reality

Jul 14, 2010
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.
These refugees on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border wish they were just playing online. (Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters)

Imagine what it's like to be forced from your home by the violence of war.

You are desperate to survive, can't say goodbye to your family, are without food and shelter and walk for days.

Can't quite picture this ordeal happening to you? There's a way you can.

International humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders has put together a virtual refugee camp on the Web.

The online camp will give you a notion of how the 42 million refugees and internally displaced people all over the world live.

During the virtual journey, you will confront the obstacles that refugees from countries like Sudan, Somalia and Palestine experience every day—and you'll hear stories from refugees fighting for survival.

Under international law, refugees are entitled to food, water, shelter, medical care and protection from violence in the country they flee to; yet these rights are often disregarded.

Barry Gutwein, a logistician for Doctors Without Borders, describes the situation in the Congo in 2006:

The only thing separating the displaced people from life-threatening dehydration was a three-and-half inch diameter exposed pipe that was snaking through the jungle to the town. Imagine the drainage pipe attached to your kitchen sink and you will begin to picture what was sustaining these people.

For many refugees, returning home is a wish—not a real option.

A refugee from Colombia says of returning to his homeland, “We are here without work. We don't know what we are going to do when we are told to leave. Our children don't go to school. But how can I even think of going back? It would be like a death sentence.”

For these people there is no easy solution, but there are ways you can help.

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