Along the Border

There is an article in a recent New Yorker that gives a really good anecdotal account of life in the refugee camps in Chad. It's a long read but full of first hand accounts, historical narratives, and in-depth commentary on the situation along the border between Sudan and Chad. It begins with this juicy line...

"Everything is fine, until the moment when it is not. And when that moment comes it can be very quick and very bad."

It continues to talk about the aid workers who enter such situations and what they encounter upon arrival. This story comes from 2003, the outbreak of violence in Darfur:

"In mid-afternoon, [the UNHCR worker] arrived in AdrĂ©, a town of ten thousand inhabitants directly across the border with Darfur. Travelling along the border, he saw hundreds of people encamped in makeshift shelters of reeds and straw, with rags and tattered blankets suspended overhead on sticks. Under the midday sun, the temperature could soar to a hundred and ten degrees. Dry winds and sand storms parched the terrain and sucked moisture from anything animate. Women and children dug deep into the sand of the dry riverbeds to find water and foraged miles into the countryside collecting wood to sell at the markets. As Sturm and his team continued along the border, the hundreds became thousands. About seventy-five per cent were women and children, hollow-eyed and lank-skinned from hunger and despair and fatigue. Interviews conducted later by Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders told of families being burned alive in their homes, and of men who had been forced to watch, in the moments before their own deaths, as their wives and daughters were raped. Some refugees had been there for months, and more came every day. Every so often, they saw in the distance a column of black smoke rising from another burning village. In the month before Sturm’s arrival, thirty thousand new refugees had crossed into Chad. The total number gathered along the four-hundred-mile border with Darfur, by rough estimates, came to seventy-seven thousand."

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