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i-ACT20 Day 6: While They Are Here, Dignity and Health

“When they first arrived, the women walked one to three kilometers to collect firewood. Now they would have to walk 30 to 50,” the Préfecture (or Mayor) of Iriba, told us. He said, “There is no more wood,” and that more and better solutions are needed.

Iriba is a small desert town in eastern Chad, close to the border with Sudan. It is home for humanitarian organizations that serve three refugee camps and over 57,000 displaced Darfuris since 2004. When the Darfuris first arrived, they were welcomed with open arms by the Chadian people in this region, but they did not think they were coming to stay. As time continues, it becomes more obvious that the local environment just cannot support those numbers.

The Darfuris themselves believed that they would go back home soon after they arrived. When I first came in 2005, they were still in shock from the horrible violence they had experienced, but they were very hopeful that the world would find out, organize, and help bring peace to their land.

We are grateful that our long-time partners, and Los Angeles area neighbors, Jewish World Watch, contacted us about coming out to assess conditions in the camps. They have been working for years in support of finding durable solutions for some of the key problems in the camps.  We are happy that they got us out here to be their eyes and ears and report back.

As all services and food are drastically cut, we cannot count on the romantic notion of “resilience” to be enough. Sure, Darfuris are resilient and will survive, but at what cost? Children’s development does not take a time-out. Their brains and bodies need food, medicine, and education. If we fail to help the mothers and fathers provide even the minimal necessary for a healthy and dignified life, we are ensuring emergencies will continue.



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