Monday, November 28, 2005

I met with Nick Kristof from the New York Times while he was over here in Sudan this month - and Nick recounts part of our conversation in yesterday's NYT column. (Thanks to everyone who emailed me about this, I'm trying to plough through the mountain of mail right now, but with the connection speed I've got this might take a while.)

While he was in Darfur, Nick also wrote an article on three women (two of them heavily pregnant) who had been gang-raped by Janjaweed militia just outside of Kalma camp recently. I know that he's horrified by the things he has seen and heard in Darfur, but I think today Nick might be a little bit encouraged by an important piece of news out of Kalma camp.

Now that the camp coordinator, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), has finally been allowed back into the camp after a two month absence (a long story - you can read about parts of it in this post), they have met with the African Union and local police officers to revive the so-called firewood patrols.

The idea behind the firewood patrols is pretty simple: the African Union (who has deployed about 6500 troops to Darfur to monitor the situation and create a more secure environment) is meant to work with local police officers to accompany the women of the camps when they venture outside to collect firewood. Since women often have to walk up to 5-10km away from the camp to get the wood, they are vulnerable to attacks, beatings, rape or worse during their journey - and the presence of the troops is meant to prevent anything happening to them.

Firewood patrols are not a new thing, but unfortunately they have not been particularly well coordinated in many parts of Darfur. There are camps that have been promised patrols for months - some for more than a year - but nothing has ever come of the plans.

Patrols require close coordination between the residents of the camp and aid agencies (to identify the routes used to collect the wood), the African Union and the Sudanese police (who are supposed to work alongside each other to organise the escorts for the women). Often, they have failed to be properly implemented due to a breakdown in coordination (be it on the side of obstructive local officials, undermanned African Union forces or even the aid agencies - for example, when they are prevented from doing their jobs as NRC was in Kalma camp).

While I won't pretend it's a major step forward on a wider Darfur scale, the news about the resurrected firewood patrols in Kalma camp is encouraging.

Of course, it should have happened more quickly and more efficiently. And it should be happening in more camps. But when the new firewood patrol leaves from Kalma's sector 3 this morning, it's likely to save dozens of women from suffering the same fate that the three women Nick met in Kalma two weeks ago had to endure.

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At , Blogger Bill said...

Our thoughts and best wishes for your work and continued safety. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

At , Blogger ashlyc said...

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At , Blogger ashlyc said...

Dear Sleepless,
It breaks my heart to hear about the happenings there. No person should ever have to experience the horror that you, and many others have. Its amazing you have such strength and it inspires me. I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to reading your words of courage and light. Stay strong, there is bound to be good days ahead.

At , Blogger yestopce said...

You are so right to keep the readers informed on your blog. Please do not stop.
One of the problems is that there a history of war and slavery in Sudan, and to change minds and hearts is going to take much pressure and education from the outside world.
Let us pressure the "free world" to educate and enlighten the enslaved world. Not an easy task.

At , Blogger sharley said...

Ok this is a small step in a positive direction, and that gives me hope. I have a special hate for the whole get raped while getting firewood deal since I first heard about it. Have you seen this report yet: AU chief negotiator "hopeful" on new round of Darfur talks. It's on, go to latest news links. Keep up the good work, I wish I could do what you are doing, I just don't know how to break into it. Also a great site for funding for innovative ideas on social change. Maybe you have some insight for them? You're a hero, don't give up!!! I'll keep on checking back :)

At , Blogger LaFleurReine said...

Thank you so much for talking about your experiences in Darfur. When I read what you see everday, I am shocked that the world sits and does nothing. Shades of Rwanda. Please let us know what we can do to help.

At , Blogger LUCKY361 said...

Just finished watching "Hotel Rawanda" and caught an 'urgent' email from Marianne Williamson with this info which contains your blog site - have sent it out to my network who in turn will send it out - will continue to read -

At , Blogger Anthony said...

I have been reading about the horror in the Sudan for awhile. Feeling very powerless.I read the article in the NY TImes yesterday while eating a bowl of soup. I stopped eating. What can I do to Help? Stay safe and thank you.


At , Blogger Gene Leo said...

Only with the dedication that people like you have and the persistance of someone like N. Kristof will we see an end and a solution to this genocide. It is difficult to be creative in times like this. Only stubborn hard work will see these people to some hope.

At , Blogger JudgeOC said...

Thanks Sleepless. We need you and all the others who are truly trying to relieve the misery of these people. God bless.

Mike O'C

At , Blogger Mr. Lampoon said...

As a Muslim, I am appalled by the hypocritic silence of Muslim countries on this tragedy. We (Muslims) are extremely shrill when protesting abuses by Israel and the US against Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. But we lose our voice, somehow, when our Muslim "brothers" murder, rape and brutalize other Muslims on the basis of race. This is against every tenet of Islam and every teaching of The Prophet and I'm glad you're speaking out against it. Unfortunately, not many Muslims are.

At , Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks sleepless. i am gonna keep regular tab on your blog. Good Luck!

At , Blogger Angie said...

Dear Sleepless,
One person can make a difference in the world and by posting this blog you have informed a lot of people about the situation in Darfur, Sudan. I have read in your blog that a lot of aid agencies are in need of fund. I am just curious in that the European Union and the United States gives hundreds of millions in humanitarian funds in Sudan alone how can there be such big shortages?
Also, I have read in the newspapers that some aid workers have been killed in Sudan, did that in anyway effect your work?

At , Blogger Unknown said...

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