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.

IDPs To Boycott US Envoy

Unless he changes his position and takes account of our demands, he is not welcomed in our camps because he does not consider us.

Those words were spoken by a representative of Darfur’s internally displaced persons, who have decided against meeting US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration when he visits their camps.

The IDPs feel that Gration has “ignored their demand for security” and refused to acknowledge Darfur for what it is – a humanitarian crisis.

Put simply by the representative –

It is better for President Obama to appoint someone else.

Many in the US agree with this view of Gration and what he has accomplished (or hasn’t accomplished). Several had high hopes when he was appointed. Now, many are left wanting more.

IDPs Want Action Not “Tourists”

Many of Darfur’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) appear to be growing disheartened at the international community’s response (or lack thereof) to their crisis.

Time and time again, foreign envoys to Sudan arrive in Darfur, assess the situation, and leave as quickly as they came.

The IDPs do not want “tourists”. They want people who will witness the suffering and do something about it when they return home.

Envoys come and go – yet the conflict rages on.

26 Million Strangers in Their Own Homes

According to a European aid organization, there were 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in 2008.

IDPs differ from refugees because, although they flee their homes, they do not cross any borders. Sadly, they are homeless in their homeland.

Three countries account for approximately 45% of the IDPs – Sudan (4.9 million displaced), Colombia (2.7 – 4.4 million displaced), and Iraq (2.8 million displaced).

According to UN humanitarian chief John Holmes –

The IDPs are the real human face very often of conflict and disaster…the scale at the moment is horrific…the physical and psychological suffering that people go through in this situation cannot be underestimated…too often, I think, they are the forgotten remnants of crises.

Darfur – A Video Game?

I came across this early this morning. Not quite sure how to react to it – would like to hear what you guys think.

mtvU has brought together activism and technology in an effort to bring an end to the Darfur genocide. What has been created is a video game in which the user is a displaced Darfurian who fights for survival by foraging for water amidst threats of Janjaweed militia attacks.

mtvU wants the game to be a “glimpse of what it’s like for the more than 2.5 million who have been internally displaced by the crisis in Sudan”.

I understand that mtvU wants to spread awareness about the atrocities taking place, but I do not know whether this is the right direction to go in.

The suffering that the people of Darfur face day in and day out is not a GAME – it is a REALITY.

In the game, if an IDP runs out of water or gets captured by the militia, he or she can start over, try again. In real life, there is no “starting over”.

The real IDP’s do not have an endless supply of lives – they have one.

To see a female avatar running through a village lined with rocks and dead cattle with the Janjaweed chasing her down seems somewhat distasteful to me. I really did not want to include the link to the game on this blog entry. However, I decided that this was something that all of you needed to see for yourself.

“On the Brink of a Deepening Crisis”

After a visit to one of Darfur’s IDP camps, US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration came away “very concerned” about what he saw.

What he saw was an overwhelming lack of adequate water and medical supplies – the result of Sudan’s expulsion of foreign humanitarian groups who provided such necessities to millions displaced by the Darfur genocide.

According to Gration –

We are on the brink of a deepening crisis in Darfur…we have to come up with a solution on the ground within the next few weeks…so that these people don’t die and they don’t incur any more suffering.

In addition to water and medical care, Gration also wants to bring peace to Darfur –

I believe that we can all work together and that means rebel groups and the government and other folks that have an interest here to come up with a solution that works for everybody.

On another note, the Executive Editor of the New York Times recently equated saving the newspaper with SAVING DARFUR!!!!!! – click here to read more.

“Obama, Save Us From Imminent Death”

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

Photograph by Stop Genocide Now

A prominent leader representing Darfur’s IDPs and refugees has written a letter to US President Barack Obama – informing him of the deteriorating conditions in camps and demanding that he take action to prevent the “imminent death” of many.

Click here to read the letter for yourself.