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“What Khalil first heard were helicopter sounds…and then the children started running.”
At Refugees International’s New York Circle event last Thursday, Ann Curry movingly spoke about the stories and photographs she’s collected in her reporting trips to Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan. Her photos tell the tragic accounts of Darfuri refugee children who have fled brutal helicopter attacks on their villages, burn victims, and women who have faced sexual violence. “In those pictures,” she said, “is the suffering of Darfur.”
Joined by actor and Refugees International board member Matt Dillon, acting president Joel Charny and advocate Melanie Teff, Ann addressed nearly 200 attendees of the event “Images of Tragedy and Hope” at the The National Arts Club in New York City. She shared her photo exhibit, “Exposing Darfur,” which displays in powerful detail the victims of ongoing conflict between the Government of Sudan and people from the Darfur region.
Matt also presented his short documentary, “South Sudan: An Enduring Struggle,” and spoke about his travel with Refugees International to south Sudan in February. His footage captured some of the devastating challenges faced by refugees returning to their homes in south Sudan and the communities that are hosting them. Almost 2 million south Sudanese have returned home following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended 21 years of civil war. Yet they have been greeted by an unstable environment with little means to support their families. “We need to be more involved in building and improving their infrastructure,” Matt noted.
Melanie spoke of the consistent message she and Matt heard from south Sudanese people: “One point people kept making to us while we were in south Sudan was that we need the world to keep its eye on Sudan so that it doesn’t slip back into the horrors of the war between the north and the south."
Both Melanie and Joel urged the audience to continue to push the Obama administration to focus on urgent humanitarian needs throughout Sudan. A strong focus is urgently needed to improve access for humanitarian aid groups and gender-based violence programs in Darfur, to protect civilians, and to prioritize basic services for people returning home from years of war. As Joel said about the recently released US policy on Sudan, “the policy’s greatest weakness is that it lacks clear plans to address continued problems of humanitarian access and meet the needs of displaced people and those returning home.”
Until we are able to bring about greater stability in the lives of all Sudanese people, we have much work to do. “Until they go home,” said Ann, “nothing we’ve done will be good enough.”