Numbers Don’t Say It All
By Gabriel Stauring
I wake up to read this headline from the UN News Center: Darfur: UN humanitarian office reports mass displacement amid ongoing hostilities. I’m reading that as I’m about to go visit almost 30,000 refugees that live in camp Touloum, and they are only 10% of the 300,000 displaced Darfuris living in camps in eastern Chad.
That headline from the UN News Center is from yesterday, but it’s like the countless others that read just about the same from 2003 on. Since 2014, more than 430,000 Darfuris have been displaced because of violence. There is over 2,000,000 long-term internally displaced persons. That said, Darfur is no longer an emergency, at least not in the eyes of the world.
We know that, on average, any refugee will remain a refugee for almost two decades. When they are first displaced en masse, the world tends to pay some attention to the initial numbers and rushes in emergency help that keeps them alive. We don’t, however, invest in their future, so that they are not a part of future emergencies.
I’ve been talking with Darfuri mothers every day at camp Touloum, and they laugh a sad laugh when I ask them about returning to Darfur. They also laugh that same laugh when I ask them how many times a month their family eats meat. Their food rations are getting smaller every month and include less items. This month, they are only getting sorghum and lentils.
At the end of talking with one of the mothers, Mariam, she tells me, “Thank you.” But then she says, in effect, that she does not just want to be a statistic. She said, “People come to visit us at the camps and take down numbers. Then they leave, and the rations keep getting smaller. If I see you coming again, I might get worried.” And Mariam laughed a sad laugh, as we said goodbye.
What do you wish for?
By Sara-Christine Dallain
A young girl named Badira was the light of my day. She is ten years old and attends primary school. Her favorite subject is Math and she hopes to be a teacher one day. I visited her home and spoke with her mother. As soon as I entered, her face lit up. She spent the entire time staring at me. I would glance over at her, and her face would crack a big smile. She is the face of a refugee.
Her mother was gracious in answering all of my questions. When I asked Badira’s mother what she wished for, she responded, to feel confident that she will always have enough food for her family. She then listed oil, sugar, and some soap. If she could always have those things, she would be happy.
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