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Aussie Life

Refugees & Lip Fillers

I wanted to call this post ‘Our world is f*cked’ but then several people who know me would find this type of language offensive and besides, it’s not in my usual style to use expletives in my writing. However, this world really IS f*cked. This isn’t about the effects of climate change nor about our war on waste, it’s about the unfairness and the madness of it all.

Earlier this week, Chief and I watched a BBC documentary presented by Simon Reeve. Simon, former journalist now presenter, travels to Burma and Bangladesh. He meets the locals and we learn of the country’s long and troubled history. He also visits the northern area of Rakhine, the state where the Rohingya Muslim minority reside.

Summing up the long and complicated history of Burma; a series of Anglo-Burmese wars, led to British colonial rule which came to an end with the country’s independence in 1948. Since then, the country has been ruled by the military in various guises, and in the process has become one of the least developed nations in the world. It was the military who decided to change the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar, overnight.

Today the Rohingya people have become one of the most persecuted minorities on earth and you can find out why here. In the last two years more than 723,000 Rohingya people have been driven across the border into Bangladesh, seeking refuge from violence, torture and rape.

Simon Reeve visited Kutupalong Camp, the refugee settlement which has grown to become the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 600,000 people living in an area of just 13 square kilometres. The vast majority reaching Bangladesh are women and children, and more than 40 per cent are under age 12. Many others are elderly people requiring additional aid and protection. They have nothing and need everything. (excerpt from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website)

The terrors inflicted on the Rohingya people are captured in one confronting scene in the documentary, when a young boy speaking to Reeve is visibly frightened of the video camera, having confused it for a gun. “It was a deeply upsetting journey to undertake,” says Reeve. “A beautiful country, but the story of what’s happened there is horrifying.”

It was incredibly moving to hear the personal stories of the people Reeve met, especially the children who have nothing and have never known any different, except that now they are in relative safety. It really brought home to me just how fortunate I am to have been dealt such a great and fortunate hand in life. Why was I chosen to live the privileged life I lead and not one of persecution, violence and poverty?

© UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

And now let me bring you back into our crazy western society; a couple of days after watching the documentary, I was ordering my morning coffee and I struck up my usual chit-chat with the familiar barista behind the counter. She was just recovering from having her lips injected with filler. I tried to offer her sympathy, but I had no words. I even tried to demonstrate some empathy – at least I should be able to appreciate what she had gone through in order to make her lips look – look, well, fishy couldn’t I? The young girl had also had injections under her eyes because she was fed up with having grey circles under them – she’s in her mid-20s. I looked at the other girls behind the counter wondering if any of them were thinking what I was thinking but I realised one of them had also had her lips plumped and one had eyelash extensions – eyelash extensions – f*ck me!

Photo by Guido Fuà on Unsplash

I couldn’t help but wonder what the Rohingya women in the refugee camp would have made of this. If Simon Reeve had told them that in western society women were having their lips injected with fillers to make themselves look like fish, and eyelash extensions to make themselves look – ridiculous, they wouldn’t have believed him. If he explained to them that women who live a more fortunate life are never satisfied, that they have so much self-doubt and self-loathing that they can’t accept themselves for who they are anymore, they would think us all totally cuckoo and this is what’s so totally f*cked!

Allison Joyce/UNFPA

At least the people in the refugee camp now have access to clean drinking water and latrines plus several health and nutrition units across the site. Also 50,000 basic shelters have been constructed out of bamboo, rope and tarpaulines. Unfortunately because many refugees arriving from Myanmar have not been vaccinated, diphtheria and other diseases such as cholera, hepatitis E and measles pose a high risk. To top it all, the camp sits in an area prone to flooding and landslides during the monsoon season.

© UNHCR/Adam Dea

The refugee women would be living from day to day, caring for their children, keeping them safe and trying to prevent them from catching diseases – the last thing on their mind would be lip-plumping and eyelash extensions.

It’s a crazy world in which we live in for sure.

(Information from UNHCR)

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