Darfur - Childhood At Risk After Five Years of War
Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)
11 April 2008
Posted to the web 12 April 2008
Thousands of people in more than 30 countries across the globe will mark five years of war in Darfur with protests on Sunday, April 13, 2008.
Sunday's Global Day for Darfur - organized by an international coalition of human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Save Darfur Coalition - is highlighting how over 1 million Sudanese children have been caught up in the bloodshed, displacement, and killing in the region.
"Five years on, the killings in Darfur continue because world leaders have let Sudan - and some rebels - get away with murder," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Millions of Darfuris are struggling to survive on aid handouts under the daily threat of being raped, beaten, or killed. Sudanese leaders need to know they will pay a heavy price for continuing to defy the UN Security Council."
The global day, the fifth since the conflict began in 2003, is backed by children's authors including J.K. Rowling and Judy Blume who released a letter demanding the world bring back childhood to Darfur, and celebrities including actor Matt Damon and Thandie Newton who were pictured destroying emblems of childhood to highlight the attack on childhood in Darfur.
"Days like this matter because they keep what is happening in the eyes of the international community," said actor George Clooney, who is also backing the day. "If we all raise our voices the international community will have to listen and respond. We need sustained international engagement if we're to see real progress on the ground."
Drawings of the war by children who witnessed the conflict first-hand are being exhibited online to mark five years of fighting.
Supporters of the Global Day for Darfur are calling for:
- All parties to immediately stop attacking civilians;
- Full deployment of an adequately resourced international peacekeeping force (UNAMID); and,
- UNAMID to actively protect all civilians and especially children.
"The people of Darfur are hungry for change," said Dismas Nkunda of the Darfur Consortium, a coalition of African and Middle-Eastern groups working on Darfur.
"They have been the victims of a belligerent government and an inept international response. Above all it has been children who have suffered and it is they whom we must now rally to protect before we lose an entire generation to violence."
"We are determined to ensure that Darfur is not added to the list of conflicts that the world forgot," said Tawanda Hondora, deputy program director of Amnesty International's Africa program. "Five years in we mustn't forget what war means for ordinary people, particularly the most vulnerable. It means fear, suffering and deprivation. Five years is enough."
About 200,000 people are thought to have died due to the conflict since 2003, and over 2.3 million are internally displaced.
On January 1, 2008, the UN-AU hybrid force (UNAMID - UN African Mission in Darfur) was expected to be deployed to the region. But deployment has been hampered by obstruction by the Sudanese government and delay on the part of the international community to provide appropriate resources.
Countries marking the global day include: Belgium, France, Canada, South Africa, Gambia, Rwanda, Senegal, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Australia, Sierra Leone, Germany, UK, USA, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Israel, Switzerland, Hungary, Mali, Ireland, Tunisia, Togo, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and Japan.