September 14, 2007
Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH), a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, recently traveled to the Darfur region of Sudan to view the refugee camps and assess the ongoing humanitarian crisis. On the week-long fact-finding mission to Africa, Chabot was joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE).
Chabot visits Abu Shouk, a refugee camp located in Northern Darfur.
Abu Shouk is one of the largest refugee camps in Sudan, accommodating more than 54,000 displaced persons.
Most of the refugees in camps like Abu Shouk were driven from their homes when their villages were attacked by Sudanese planes or helicoptors, followed within hours by Arab militias known as the Janjaweed - who swept into villages killing, raping and pillaging.
Those fortunate enough to have survived fled to refugee camps such as Abu Shouk or across the border into the neighboring country of Chad.
Yet, even in the refugee camps, women and children do not feel safe. Children are often awaken at night by gunfire and women are especially vulnerable when they leave the camps to gather firewood for their families. The Janjuweed lurk in the countryside making abductions and rapes a constant threat.
Children in Abu Shouk attend school during the day.
And while children go to school, women are hard at work crafting items to sell at local markets. Here they are making food coverings used to keep food fresh.
There are currently 6,000 African Union troops in Darfur working to curtail violence and provide security. Last month the UN also approved 20,000 additional UN-African Union peace keepers ready to be deployed this fall.
The United States has provided 72 percent of the cost of peacekeeping, development, reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Darfur, totaling $4 billion so far. We need to do more and our European allies and the wealthy Middle Eastern nations should help shoulder the burden to bring peace and stability back to Dafur.