The genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region remains the most vicious of our time. The Sudanese Armed Forces, anti-government rebel groups & Janjaweed militias continue to clash, killing hundreds of thousands with no end in sight. This explosion of violence reverberates into continuing crisis for over 2.5 million Darfuri refugees, innocent people caught without food, shelter or life-saving medicine.
The regional instability that initiated this crisis is the biggest obstacle against its solution. Many non-government organizations (NGOs) cannot provide aid due to insecurity, and the fragmentation of rebel & militia groups causes mistrust amongst the refugees over who can be trusted with their safety.
But where there remains humanity, there remains hope. The 2007 documentary Emergency in Darfur: Children at Risk (linked from MAZON’s YouTube page – http://www.youtube.com/mazonusa) chronicles the success of relief efforts by UNICEF and MAZON grantee International Medical Corps (IMC) in the troubled region. IMC serves over 288,000 Darfuri through mobile clinics and dedicated health care centers. Sudanese doctor Ali Dowelbait relays that a majority (80-90%) of the doctors and workers in these clinics are native Sudanese, insuring local sustainability and continued operation. It’s a hand up – not a hand out.
UNICEF assists the nomadic tribes in the Northern region of Darfur, and collaborates with certain factions around Darfuri capital Al-Fashir, to meet the education & nutrition needs of all who are hungry. This is a particularly difficult task, as many Darfuri confuse the wandering tribes with the Janjaweed militia. Here, UNICEF works with Sudanese NGO Al Massar to distribute food and education through a school based in the city of Al Harrar. This program boosts enrollment rates from almost nothing for girls and merely 5% for boys to 20% for girls and 40% for boys.
These efforts bring a marked impact on malnutrition rates, with IMC in particular reporting rates more than halved during their program period. But NGOs aren’t the only ones working to help the region. Another documentary, Darfur Now (available on DVD from Warner Home Video), follows a group of individuals working independently to end the genocide.
The most fascinating figure is International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Driven by his personal history living under Argentina’s military junta, he seeks to try Sudanese minister Ahmad Muhammad Harun & militia leader Ali Kushayb for war crimes. He watches helplessly from afar as Janjaweed burn villages to the ground, protected by the Sudanese officials who deny the massacres to the rest of the world. Yet these heartbreaking images and second-hand reports are the keys to justice in the region, and he finds the strength in diplomacy to press forth.
Actors Don Cheadle, George Clooney & student activist Adam Sterling show the value of advocacy. Cheadle & Clooney use their celebrity status to influence Sudan’s international trading partners, while Sterling passes fliers on street corners and takes his fight all the way to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Interviews with Sudanese rebel Hijewa Adam underscore the importance of international advocacy; she believes in justice for her murdered son and fallen countrywomen, but admits that her corrupt government only listens to gunfire & “white people”.
But you don’t need celebrity ties or an international profile to be an advocate. Advocacy simply means speaking up, and you can speak up for those in this desperate situation without leaving your computer. Save Darfur, a coalition of over 180 faith-based and humanitarian organizations (including MAZON), features a web campaign at http://action.savedarfur.org/campaign/addyourvoice08 through which you can send postcards to Presidential candidates Barack Obama & John McCain to insure that the next President commits vital resources to the region.
Here at MAZON, we raised almost $100,000 in direct appeals a few years ago, and still receive regular donations for our Darfur fund. Real progress is being made, and with so many ways to help, we will see the Darfuri through this tragedy.