Recording a people’s suffering

Recording a people’s suffering

By Nicholas Jones

5:30 AM Monday Jun 3, 2013


Janna Hamilton’s work for Oxfam includes missions to Africa and she now wants to keep the suffering of the Syrian people high on the news agenda. Photo / Supplied

It’s a long way from Tauranga – but Janna Hamilton is hoping those back home will listen to the stories she tells about the suffering of the Syrian people.

Ms Hamilton, 34, left to go to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan yesterday, where she will talk to some of the more than 170,000 inhabitants in an effort to keep their suffering on the news agenda.

Originally from Tauranga, Ms Hamilton studied journalism at Massey University in Wellington before working at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia introduced her to the work of aid organisations.

Now working for Oxfam as a media officer, she is deployed into emergency or conflict zones, where her main job is to document the situation and raise media attention to it.

Her trip to Jordan follows stints in East Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan.

With summer and 40C plus temperatures approaching, the situation in refugee camps such as Zaatari – which is designed to cope with just 60,000 people – is critical, with relief agencies hugely over-stretched and disease looming.

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Eight thousand refugees flee Syria each day, with 1.6 million having left since the start of the bloody conflict, which is rapidly escalating with reports of atrocities by both sides and allegations that chemical weapons have been used by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Ms Hamilton – speaking on the phone from Jerusalem – said documenting these people’s experiences was crucial, but also brought some nerves. “About what you are going to see, what you are going to hear … it’s so hard to imagine being in their shoes, and what they’ve actually had to leave behind. These are families that just had normal, ordinary lives, they were getting on with their businesses, their kids were in school, and for a lot of these families that has been completely destroyed.”

Ms Hamilton will be in Jordan for a few days before returning to Jerusalem, and will make a number of repeat visits.

To help, donate to Oxfam’s emergency response at or call 0800 400 666

By Nicholas Jones EmailNicholas

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