MiaFarrow.org

Humanitarian and Advocacy Information

My Trip to Chad and Central African Republic

In early February of 2007 I went to Chad and CAR to witness the humanitarian crisis spilling out of the Darfur region of Sudan. Below is the photo diary from this trip. It is chronological, starting from the bottom of the page. To follow my journey, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and follow the entries up. Thank you for your interest in this devastated and victimized part of our world community.

2/27/2007      New York City, USA

I'm back in the states and want to thank everyone for all their kind support. I have been working to get the word out about the atrocities being committed in Chad, Sudan, and CAR. You can read about my trip to Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) and see my photos below. I urge you with all my heart to do what you can to help these people, who, even in their lowest moment, and though they did not know me, thought to inquire about my wellbeing. Thank you again for anything and everything you can do to help this cause.

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2/23/2007      Djorlo Village, Eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad  

Today we went to what had been the village of Djorlo, population 2,000. At about 5:00 am last December, the Janjaweed attacked Djorlo from three directions.

The villagers tried to defend their homes with bows and arrows, but they were no match for the Janjaweed with their Kalashnikovs.

The entire village was burnt and 48 people were killed.

It's difficult to describe the impact of walking through such mindless destruction. Home after home utterly devastated. In the ashes of Djorlo, we found remnants of everyday life; shattered pots, cookware, a blackened bed, charred boxes. Even the clay storage pots had been deliberately smashed to destroy precious food + supplies.

     
burned village in eastern Chad  

After the attack, some of the villagers returned to bury their dead. We found three mass graves.

The survivors of Djorlo are now living in one of the many makeshift camps scattered across eastern Chad.

Aid workers are trying to meet the needs of this increasingly abandoned population. But due to the extreme volatile situation, humanitarian organizations have been forced to scale back in their numbers, severely limiting their capacity to help.

Until some semblance of security can come to this region, even the most basic needs of the people will not be met.

     

 

 

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2/22/2007      Goz Beida, Eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad  

Today we visited Goz Amer, refugee camp, where just a few days ago some children found a grenade and without any idea what it was they brought into their schoolroom where it exploded, severely wounding 18 children. This incident illustrates the fact that eastern Chad has become so militarized that unexploded ordinances are strewn around the camps, posing yet another threat to this already vulnerable population.

<<  a child's blood stained notebook

     
burned village in eastern Chad  

In the camp, I met Ameni Khamis Abakar, a 15 year old girl, one of victims of the grenade explosion. She was laying on a mat; her blood stained bandages were covered in flies.

<<  Ameni

Four years ago Ameni’s village was attacked by Janjaweed. ‘They killed all the men. We had to run without taking anything. Now we have nothing’.

When I asked Ameni want she wanted most, she said, ‘I want to have clothes and be like every child in the world. I want to go back to Darfur. We have to be here. But it is not my home.’

     
burned village in eastern Chad  

In Goz Beida hospital where other victims of the explosion were being cared for, there I met Hamis Hussain, a sweet faced 12 year old boy, who was clearly in pain.

<<  Hamis

When Hamis’ Darfurian village was burned, his parents were killed. He and his older brother managed to reach Goz Amer refugee camp.

I sat with Hamis for a while and he began to murmur softly. The translator said Hamis was asking me, how I was feeling.

A child already traumatized by the Darfur conflict and now wrapped in bandages and in severe pain, found it in his heart to ask me how I was.

     
burned village in eastern Chad  

Over and over again, the courage and kindness of the people here is evident.

<<  a child whose hand was blown off in the grenade explosion

     

 

 

 

 

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2/20/2007      Goz Beida, Eastern Chad

We are now in Goz Beida, eastern Chad, near the Darfur border. Over the last four years since the violence began in Darfur, 235,000 people have fled their burning villages seeking safety here.

They were welcomed by their Chadian neighbors and for a time they were safe. But Darfur’s Janjaweed are here. Now Chadian villages are burning.

Countless innocent Chadians have been murdered and mutilated. 115,000 are homeless, struggling to survive in make shift sites and camps.

Courageous aid workers in difficult and dangerous conditions are doing their utmost to sustain this traumatized and fragile population, not only the Darfurians but now the Chadians.

Over the last two days we met with many displaced families and refugees. The need for food and water was desperate, but their first request was for protection.

It is past time for international peacekeeping force to come to Eastern Chad.

     
 

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2/19/2007      Abeche, Eastern Chad

 

Yesterday we arrived in Abeche enroute to Goz Beida, eastern Chad, along Chad's border with Darfur. By chance, Nobel Peace Prize winner - the amazing - Jody Williams and members of the UN Human Rights Mission were also here.

Williams and the rest of the mission were recently denied entry visas into Darfur, so they came here to eastern Chad. Williams told me about her day at a refugee camp where the people voiced their desperate hope that a peacekeeping force would soon arrive. I was so excited to meet her. We had spoken on the phone and had been emailing prior to both our missions but never dreamed we would meet so soon and in such a remote spot.

     

Now some facts about eastern Chad:

235,000 refugees from Darfur and some from the C.A.R.
115,000 IDPs

The Players:
Chadian Army
Chadian rebel groups formed to unseat Chadian President Deby - UFDD, CNT, FUC
Chadian Arab Militia (Janjaweed)
Darfurian Arab Militia (Janjaweed)
Darfurian rebel groups

Security:
Eastern Chad is in security Phase 4. The rest of Chad is in Phase 3. Sort of interesting the way UN categorizes these phases:

Phase 1 - Caution
Phase 2 - Restricted movement
Phase 3 - Essential staff only (no dependents)
Phase 4 - Emergency programs only
Phase 5 - Suspension of all programs

It was particularly comforting to hear that 'we don't have the capacity to effectively/fully evacuate'.

We are now waiting to board our flight to Goz Beida, which should of left an hour ago..but unfortunately, the pilot has taken ill...so it goes in eastern Chad.

May I just add, a toilet is a beautiful thing....

     


 

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2/15/2007      Paoua, Northwest Central African Republic

burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad


 

It’s been a long day. I have seen a lot. It is a struggle to form any coherent picture of the conflict that has devastated the Central African Republic. Here are the players: the presidential guards, the government army, four rebel groups, bandits and insurgents from Chad and Sudan.

The victims are the innocent civilian population of C.A.R. Out of a total population of 4 million, 1 million are lively in desperate needs of humanitarian assistance. At least 150,000 are struggling to survive in the bush.

Today, on the road to Paoua, a town which was recently the scene of fighting between government forces and rebels, there was scarily a single village that was not destroyed or abandoned.

We paused at one of these burned villages, and stood quietly while hundreds emerged from the bush.

They were caked in dust, barely clothed in tattered rags. While we were speaking with them, sounds of an oncoming vehicle sent them fleeing back into the bush.

To see that many people running in terror is something I will never forget.

An international peacekeeping force must come not only to safeguard C.A..R borders with Sudan but also the completely porous border with Chad.

This would provide a measure of security in a region that is convulsed in violence, so that aid workers can provide humanitarian assistance. Appallingly there are no UN or American agencies here. This is outrageous- they must  come.  Only MSF and the Italian NGO Coopi, ICRC, Caritas and Catholic missionaries have responded. 

<<  this child had only his slingshot and this ragged shirt -- no other clothing

 

 

     
burned village in eastern Chad
  <<  child being threatened with a knife, reason unknown

As I was meeting with the people who emerged from the bush, this little girl was thrust forward by a man who held a knife at her throat. I had no translator, so I do not know what the man said, only that this girl's life was being threatened. I am doing everything in my power to locate this child and it it my most fervent hope that she is still alive.
     
 

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2/14/2007      Bossongoa to Markonda in Northwest Central African Republic

burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad


 

Today we drove for most of the day through the bush and on the roughest of dirt roads.

We passed through countless burnt villages. Survivors of these attacks have fled into the bush, where they have been living for more than a year.

When we stopped passing by the burnt villages people emerged from behind trees. They have nothing. They survive by eating leaves and roots. They are without clothes, blankets or any clean water source. At least 150,000 people are living under these deplorable conditions.

A woman told me, “Our children are getting sick and dying there is nothing we can do. We can not return to our villages. We would be massacred.”

People told us their attackers were armed men in uniform.

The humanitarian situation here cannot be more dire.  How many innocent people must die before an international peace keeping force is deployed along Central African Republic‘s borders with Chad and Sudan?

     
 

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2/13/2007      Bossongoa, Northwest Central African Republic

Today we traveled to Bossongoa in northwest Central African Republic.

In 2003, Bossongoa was attacked by rebels that support the current government. Ever since, the effects have been very devastating.

At present people are struggling to survive.

Many of the men were killed, leaving countless widows to fend for their themselves and their children.


burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad



 

I came upon a three-year old baby girl named Niege who was in the final stages of severe malnutrition. Her hair has fallen has out and her legs and belly were swollen with fluid. He kidneys have shut down.

<< Niege, with swollen body


We took Niege and her mother to the only hospital in the region and we are hoping she will survive.  We  are arranging her transfer to Bangui where there is a better equiped hospital. The doctor here is not sure whether she would survive the journey

Niece is the face of conflict and poverty.This is what the children of C.A.R. are facing.

(as of Feb 27 Neige is doing well. Her kidneys are functioning and she is able to sit)

<< updated photo of Niege

     
 

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2/12/2007      Birao, western C.A.R.

At the airstrip here in Birao, French troops mingle with forces from the Chadian army and soldiers from C.A.R. The town is heavily guarded. I have spoken to numerous sources, asking who is supporting the rebel groups that attacked Birao, the general consensus is that all evidence points to the government of Sudan.


burned village in eastern Chad



 

After the attack of Birao, and the three days of intense fighting that followed, the rebels, as many as 2000, along with numerous vehicles, reportedly crossed the border into Sudan to regroup, recruit and re- arm. The is little doubt that another attack is imminent.

A high level official who asked not to be named said, "There is a tsunami of evidence" pointing to Khartoum as the supporters of rebel forces here in C.A.R

 

 

     
 

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2/11/2007      Birao, western C.A.R. (Central African Republic)

burned village in eastern Chad
 

I am trying to send this message via satellite.

The village of Birao is six-to-eight drive from the capital of Central African Republic, Bangui. It is just 40 miles from the Darfur border. For 7 months of the year, the road to Birao is impassible because of the rainy season.

Birao once had a population of 6000. On Oct 30 at 4 am Birao was attacked by rebel forces some 2000 strong. People here have no doubt  that the rebels are directly supported by the Government of Sudan.

     
burned village in eastern Chad
 

Zanaba Ousman, a young mother described the attack:

"What happened to us deserves to be told. The rebels came at 4:00 in the morning. They were many many men, at least 2000. They broke our doors. They beat us. They raped all the women. All. They drank from our breasts. Then they burned our breasts so that we cannot feed our babies. Our husbands could do nothing. The rebels have guns. Some of our husbands were killed, some ran into the bush. The women had to stay in the village for three days. Many women were badly injured. We were terrified. We had our babies with us. The older children ran away. Some are lost-we still cannot find them. We hid in the bush for weeks. Some women gave birth to babies. There was no one to help. My friend died while giving birth to two babies. The babies were eaten by lions. We wish we could tell other women, other mothers, it is hard here for our children. There is no school now. No clean water. The children are getting sick. They have no shoes. The rebels have taken everything, our clothes and blankets and our cooking utensils. We need clothes. We have nothing. Because of the massive rapes and the HIV/aids rates we women would like to be screened. Could you ask for that? And please, would you ask for tools and seeds? Our crops were burned."

Zanaba trailed off, staring into the red sand, between her bare feet.

     

burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad

burned village in eastern Chad

 

By her side, another woman, Gazi Honoriena, said,

"Because of the rapes, babies will come. They are our children and we will accept them. But we do not know what our husbands will do. We do not know."

It is rumored that an attack will take place soon, on a nearby village.

What is urgently needed is an international peacekeeping force with the capacity to provide safety for Zanaba, Gazi, the defenseless villagers of Birao and northeastern and north western C.A.R.

     
 

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2/9/2007      Paris, France

burned village in eastern Chad

 

My journey has not yet begun yet I have already encountered a true hero. In my transit stopover in Paris, I met with Sylvia Gaya 1692, a UNICEF aid worker who was shot and very nearly lost her life last April in Abeche, eastern Chad. She is still recovering and her fervent hope, after all she has suffered, is to return to her work saving lives in this devastated region. I will bring her loving messages to her colleagues in eastern Chad who are sorely missing her.

There must be an international peacekeeping force to provide protection for the innocent population of Darfur and eastern Chad and for the courageous aid workers who are risking their lives every day to sustain others. We must move heaven and earth to get the world to contribute peacekeepers in sufficient numbers and with the capability to provide safety for aid workers like Sylvia and for the people who so desperately await protection.

Heading for Bangui tonight. I'm excited.

   
 
2/8/2007      New York City, USA

Scroll up to see the photos ^^

Dear Friend,
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I can't think of anything I would rather be doing: I am leaving today to visit Darfur's borders with the Central African Republic. On Feb 16th I will cross back into eastern Chad. Sadly I know I will return with more photographs of further devastation. In the meantime, please scroll down to see pictures from my three previous trips to the region with the continuing hope that you will see, understand and feel a moral imperative to take action to end the immeasurable suffering of the people of Darfur and eastern Chad. Check back soon and often because I will be reporting from the field when i have access.
With hope,
Mia Farrow

 

     
mia farrow

mia farrow's images on flickr

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