Teen Talk 6-7

The Conflict in Darfur Needs Attention
Part I of III   
   Darfur is not a country but a region in Sudan. It is located in the west of Sudan next to the Central African Republic and Chad.
    The ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan began in 2003, when the government of Sudan began sponsoring attacks against the people of Darfur. The genocide has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people. More than one hundred people continue to die each day. About the size of Texas, the Darfur region is home to racially mixed tribes of settled peasants, who identify as African and nomadic herders, who identify as Arab. The majority of people in both groups are Muslim. 
     In February 2003, frustrated by poverty and neglect from the government in Khartoum (the Sudanese capital), two Darfurian rebel groups launched an uprising against the Khartoum government. Claiming to be putting down the insurrection, the government responded with a scorched-earth campaign against the innocent civilians of Darfur, enlisting the Janjaweed, a militia drawn from members of Arab tribes in the region, to perpetrate the attacks. The Darfurians are trying to escape into their neighboring countries to escape the Janjaweed.
     Life was never easy in Darfur, but for years the people there have managed to scrape a sparse existence from subsistence farming. When the Janjaweed came some 18 months ago, armed conflict broke out and their lives were immediately made impossible. These Janjaweed’s have raped the land and the people, have stolen all of these people’s assets and burned their houses to the ground when they were done.
     But even the Darfurians who escape these Janjaweeds still die in great number. Cholera, dysentery, and malaria threaten the survival of hundreds of thousands of the displaced people.
   Dr. Lee Jong-wook, WHO, World Health Organization, Director-General, as he finished his mission into areas of South and West Darfur, said "People are dying now because they are living in totally unsatisfactory conditions, but too many more could die in the coming weeks unless we prevent the lack of sanitation, malnutrition, shortage of clean water and the coming rains from combining into a recipe for death, We must work urgently to prevent a health catastrophe." The attacks from the Janjaweeds have not only forced these people off their land but also into a country were they are not welcome and cannot get the care they need. Pictures of the Darfurians that cannot get health are visually distressing and cannot begin to capture the emotions of these people.
     One photographer said, “ In Darfur, my camera is not nearly enough.” As an eyewitness to the traumas they faced he said, “ The pictures I took can only show part of the problems they face.” That photographer’s name is Brian Steidle, a former U.S. Marine.  He is a member of the African Union team monitoring the conflict in Darfur. He took thousands of pictures documenting the atrocities that these people have faced – including small children. The pictures he took were extremely graphic and show the brutality of their oppressors against them. He landed in Sudan in 2004 along with two other military observers. When he got around he saw the destruction of these people. The first picture he took was a child who had been shot and her lung had been punctured. Immediately upon seeing him, her mother thought he was a doctor. She lifted up her torn body to his eyes but all he could offer her was a prayer and a look of compassion as their escort told her that they would alert the humanitarian aid for her daughters sake.

Gianni Risper is a 10th grade student.  He attends Eastern High School in Lansing, MI.