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The early morning birds are chirping and the sun has barely risen over the horizon when Wendy Stuart starts her day.
She unzips her tent and makes a dash down the gravel path, through the pouring rain, to the makeshift kitchen. After making a batch of porridge for her teammates, she runs to the shower where she and a few frogs have a quick wash before a 0730 meeting starts the working day.
While it may sound similar to many Kiwi camping trips, it couldn’t be more different. Wendy is in the midst of the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.
She’s working as a theatre nurse at the Red Cross and Red Crescent Field Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
It’s been one year since more than 600,000 people began crossing the Bangladesh border, fleeing violence in Myanmar.
Although 12 months have passed, the situation for people living in the camp has barely improved.
Monsoon season brings heavy rains from June through August which cause flooding throughout the country. People living in the camps are particularly vulnerable.
“Everyone is worried about landslides; all the trees have had to be cut down to build the shelters, and engineers are worried that the hills will give way bringing everything down with them,” Wendy says.
The team at the hospital regularly complete mass casualty drills in preparation for such an event, and Red Cross has been working with the population to mitigate risks throughout monsoon season.
As a theatre nurse, Wendy is on-call 24/7 to help deliver life-saving surgery.
“Sometimes I don’t sleep for two days, it’s hard but I think having a good team looking after us all makes it possible,” she says.
“Also, when you’re meeting the people coming through the hospital, you have really good motivation to do the best you can for them.”
While Wendy spends most of her time within the hospital grounds, she says visiting the camp that houses displaced people has been a humbling experience.
“I knew it must be a big camp but to be there and see it, there are more living there than on the whole South Island and we just don’t know what’s going to happen and where the people are going to go. What amazes me is how happy the children are, they’re running up with huge smiles on their face to say hello. It’s happiness and hope for life.”