Political Passivity and Humanitarian Decay

Refugees wait for food supplies on border of Chad and Sudan.

Refugees wait for food and shelter in South Darfur

A few years ago, while reading a random review of a television series in the LA Times, I came across a statement that will resonate with me forever: “Tragedy lurks in the corner of every decision… tragedy doesn’t always just occur, sometimes it accumulates.”  With respect to the escalating violence and eroding conditions in Darfur, and the border regions of Blue Nile, Abyei, and Nuba mountains, the international community is responsible for the tragedy that lurks behind their collective indecision and inaction.   In the wake of Mohamed Suleiman’s recent letter to President Obama, any news of the continually deteriorating conditions for the people in these targeted areas is especially poignant.  For many of the victims that manage to escape the aerial bombings, burning of villages, and gunfire, life only gets worse in the IDP camps or other areas in which they seek refuge.

A Few Numbers..

There are approximately two million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur.  Of these, 1.4 million live in refugee camps, and over three million need some type of humanitarian assistance.  The UN estimates that 300,000 people have fled Darfur in 2013 alone.  This is over twice the number of  IDPs than in the past two years.   Over a million people have been displaced or otherwise traumatized (having homes or means of survival destroyed, women being raped..)  in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile (border areas that became targets due to their supposed alliances with the Southern Provinces and the SPLM). Read more of this post

You don’t give hair extensions to people in a war zone… or do you?

Do we need to change how we think about what refugees need and what qualifies as legitimate humanitarian aid?  IRIN recently featured, SECURITY: New report on R2P challenges humanitarians.  Ironically, civilians successfully fleeing conflict on their own is often the best means of civilian protection available.

The report also indicates that sometimes the requests for assistance are not what one would expect.  After escaping near death, refugees often wanted “non-necessity” items to preserve ceremonies and traditions.  Guitar strings, bead and hair extensions were deemed important for wedding celebrations, music and dancing.  After losing the home they knew, it makes sense that it is genuinely important to be able to preserve that which is familiar, life-affirming, and solidifies a sense of belonging and community in their displaced location.