This is my ninth time flying to Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, shopping and fine dining. Nope. Paris is just a necessary stop on our way to the capital of Chad, N’Djamena, and–eventually–the refugee camps in the East, along the Chad-Sudan border. In Paris, I only get to see the airport, which is pretty nice, by the way.
Nine times to the camps! It’s hard to believe. I really thought that the first trip, back in 2005, was going to be my only trip. It wasn’t imaginable to me, as a beginning activist, that the people we met way back then would still be living in those same camps, as we get ready to move in to 2011.
In reading about the displaced from Darfur living in camps (somewhere in the 3 million range), both inside their country and in neighboring Chad, I often hear the words “stable,” “non-emergency,” and “livable.” Of course, the people writing those reports do not live in the camps. Their children do not live in the camps. They make a quick stop and then go back to their very livable homes.
Those reports, in many ways, are right. The camps that we visit on the Chad-Darfur border have been life-saving since they started opening in 2003. The challenge encountered by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) during those first months and years of the crisis were monumental, and the job they did was an