Children's refugee life at festival

25th June 2004 at 01:00
They are tired. Many have spent long, hot days on their feet. And they have been abandoned by parents whose minds are on other, more pressing matters.

This is the life of a primary-age child at Glastonbury, the music festival held this week in a field in Somerset. And it is also the life of a Sudanese refugee, living in a displaced-person camp. To attempt to educate young children about the plight of refugees from the war-torn African country of Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency will run a series of kids' camps at the three-day festival.

Eleanor Cockburn, of the refugee agency, said: "Glastonbury is the closest that British kids get to being in a refugee camp. Although our kids might think they are roughing it, children in refugee camps have it much harder."

Participating children will be shown camp stove, plates, knives and water-jugs that make up the personal belongings of many refugees. They will also be asked to list the possessions they were forbidden by their parents from bringing with them to the festival.

The children, many of whom moan about the food they are forced to eat during the festival, will also be shown the dry biscuits given to refugees to combat malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.

And any complaints about the festival-goers' limited bathroom facilities will be countered by an experiment. They will be given seven litres of water: the total daily amount available to each refugee.

Stephanie Gilfeather, project leader, said: "We want to open their eyes to the harshness of the refugee situation. Glastonbury is not just about rolling around in the mud. It can be a learning experience as well."

Eight-year-old Maya Wilcox has taken a week off from Hazeldown primary, in Devon, to attend the festival with her parents. "I love camping," she said.

"But there's no music in a refugee camp, and nowhere to sleep properly."

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