On April 27th I will begin a fast of water only in solidarity with the people of Darfur and as a personal expression of outrage at a world that is somehow able to stand by and watch innocent men, women and children needlessly die of starvation, thirst and disease.
The Darfur crisis deepened on March 4th when the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president President Omar al-Bashir for his essential role in the murder, rape, torture and displacement of millions. Al-Bashir retaliated immediately by expelling thirteen key international aid agencies from Sudan, including Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, CARE, Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) along with three highly respected Sudanese agencies.
Sudanese U.N. Ambassador Abdalhaleem claimed his government would have no problem filling in any gaps created by the expulsions. But U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes spoke honestly about the desperate realities: “We do not, as the U.N. system, the NGOs do not, and the Sudanese government does not have the capacity to replace all the activities that have been going on. This is a decision which is likely to have a major impact on millions of people in Darfur who are in need on a daily basis, of life-saving humanitarian assistance.” According to the UN, as of this May more than a million people will be without food aid, medical assistance, and drinkable water.
The United Nations humanitarian agencies issued their joint plea; “The suspended NGOs account for more than half of the capacity for the aid operation in Darfur. If the life-saving assistance these agencies were providing is not restored shortly, it will have immediate, lasting and profound impacts on the well being of millions of Sudanese citizens. These organizations provide a lifeline to 4.7 million people.”
I undertake this fast in the heartfelt hope that world leaders who know what is just and right will call upon the Government of Sudan to urgently readmit all of the expelled agencies or otherwise insure that the gap is filled, giving aid workers unimpeded access to the populations before they begin to die in numbers that could dwarf the Rwandan genocide. I also call upon President Obama and other leaders with influence to help build a credible peace process that can end the suffering in Darfur.
I hope human rights advocates and citizens of conscience around the world will join me in some form of fasting, even if for one day. And when I can no longer continue, I pray another will take my place, and another– until finally there is justice and peace for Darfur’s people.