Do Something About Darfur
All wars are hell. But the one that's been raging since 2003 in Darfur, in western Sudan, is particularly horrific. Pitting the Janjaweed, an Arab militia, against the black, indigenous ethnic groups of Darfur, it has left up to 400,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced. Residents have been subjected to mass murder and rape.
It's a gut-wrenching humanitarian nightmare that makes you want to do something, but it can also leave you feeling powerless. "Genocide is such a huge concept that it's hard for people to get their arms around it. There's a feeling of, 'What can I do?'" says Colleen Connors, spokesperson for SaveDarfur, an umbrella group for 178 humanitarian and faith-based organizations representing 130 million Americans.
That certainly describes Katy Flynn, a 29-year-old mother from Des Moines, who felt "upset and helpless." Of all the world's competing disaster areas, "it was the one that weighed on me most," says Flynn. Searching the Internet for ways to help in Darfur, she was surprised to find out that there wasn't an action group in Des Moines and that very few existed anywhere in the Midwest. So she started one: Des Moines for Darfur. With 150 people on its E-mail list, it's now a place to ask questions and take action.
Darfur activist groups encourage letter or E-mail campaigns demanding a halt to the violence, not only to U.S. politicians but to U.N. officials and the Sudan government. Human Rights Watch suggests hosting screenings of its six-minute video, Darfur Destroyed. SaveDarfur's website provides tools to help people send E-mails and letters, or organize a local group.
Of course, money is also needed. You can give to action groups like Flynn's or to the big international relief agencies working in Darfur, including CARE, UNESCO, and Doctors Without Borders.
Says Flynn, "Anything you do," big or small, helps.
This story appears in the December 25, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.