Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Anorexia is not by Choice

I am an animal lover.  Seeing the above pictures not only breaks my heart, but infuriates me.  I can't understand how people can be so cruel as to starve an animal and see them being consumed, day by day, and not feel sorry for them.  Where are the neighbors, friends or visitors that see this and don't report it?  I think that people that are capable of doing this should be jailed, and jailed for a long, long time.  There are no excuses for this... None! 


Then, I see these atrocities, these children dying the worst of deaths, painfully and slowly dying of starvation... And the world is doing nothing, we are doing nothing and I am doing nothing!  

We see in the news so many irrelevant, sensationalistic news about if Paris Hilton was seen going wild at a nightclub in one extravagant city at any given country.  Perhaps we are attentive to the latest love affair of the rich and famous.  Maybe what attract us is the latest gossips escaping from Hollywood.  I don't know, but certainly it is not what is taking place in Darfur since it is never in the news.

And we complain... boy, do we complain!!! I complain if my car needs a tune-up and it is going to cost me more than I expected or because now that winter is gone the electric bill is higher... oh, and I constantly bitch about paying at the pump ten cents more per gallon than I did the week before.  We complain because our lives are not like the lives we watch on a TV sitcom or at the movies, because our lives are not "perfect", because we are not wealthy.  We are a society of complainers.

When I see these pictures I truly feel ashamed of myself for being so trivial and so selfish.  These poor people would give anything for their problems to be like mine, instead, they are watching their children die and there is nothing they can do about it.  Imagine what it must feel like not being able to protect your child because you too are dying.  The pain and suffering must be unimaginable!

Yet, there are things we all can do.  It may seem too little, but surely it is more than doing nothing at all.  This is what you can do to help according to The Valentino Achak den Foundation:

Every time Valentino and Dave talk to experts on U.S. policy on Sudan, they ask what citizens can do to help. These experts always insist that one of the best things is to write a letter—an actual, personalized letter—insisting that this representative or senator do something about the ongoing genocide in Darfur, and about the gross misconduct of the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Remember that in 2005, the U.S. brought to bear great influence in brokering the peace between the north (Khartoum) and the south (the Sudan People's Liberation Army). When the U.S. wants to influence the Sudanese government, they surely have the power to do so. You can find out what your representatives have or haven’t done on Darfur by checking their individual records at

After writing a letter, call 1-800-GENOCIDE. This free hotline will ask for your zip code and then connect you to your governor, your senator, or directly to the White House switchboard. For some ideas of what to say to your elected officials, read on.

Many experts believe that one of the primary reasons Washington is dragging their feet in doing much about Darfur is due to Khartoum's help in their War on Terror. To back up: In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden spent six years in Khartoum. Sudan is where he built his network of terror. While being hosted by the Sudanese government, he provided Khartoum with millions of dollars. In the late 1990s, after the bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the U.S. exerted great pressure on Sudan to expel bin Laden. They did so. (Again, the U.S. can have great influence in Sudan when they want to.)

After 9-11, the Khartoum government became a very cooperative partner in the War on Terror. The U.S. could count on Sudan's intelligence community to provide information about any suspected terrorists who had worked with bin Laden in Sudan. Because the Sudanese proved themselves useful in Washington's terrorist hunts, many experts believe that the Bush administration was loath to push Sudan too hard on the genocide in Darfur, lest Khartoum cease to be helpful in the War on Terror. These same experts believe strongly that the U.S. need not be so timid. The Obama administration has an opportunity to change U.S. policy in Sudan; Washington can still exert pressure on Khartoum without fear of losing a partner in intelligence-gathering. And even if they do lose this partner, we believe that trading the lives of hundreds of thousands of Darfuris is not worth whatever bits of information we're able to glean from Khartoum's intelligence.

A number of nonprofits are aiding refugees and are working for peace in Sudan. This is by no means a complete list, but these organizations have assisted Valentino and Dave, so we'll start with them:

Save the Children: When Valentino and Dave traveled to Sudan in 2003, they stayed in the compound of Save the Children's base in Marial Bai. Save the Children is involved in many efforts to aid the Sudanese who have suffered as a result of civil war, and has been instrumental in bringing former slaves and abductees back to their villages of origin.

Concern: In 2003, Valentino and Dave flew on a Concern cargo flight back to Marial Bai. Concern brings food and supplies to war-ravaged areas. Their work in Sudan now focuses on nutrition, water sanitation, and shelter for people affected by the war.

The UNHCR: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees maintained the refugee camps at Pinyudo and Kakuma mentioned in What Is the What. The agency is now working to help refugees return to their communities in Southern Sudan, and to make the reintegration process a safe and sustainable one.

International Crisis Group: This is a worldwide think tank that monitors, analyzes, and suggests solutions to conflicts and humanitarian crises around the world. Home of John Prendergast, one of the foremost American experts on Sudan—and the expert on whom Valentino and Dave continually rely. We believe that their work in Sudan, and on U.S. policy toward Sudan, is crucial.

Just a few of these organizations:

ENOUGH: The ENOUGH campaign seeks to unite and strengthen the efforts of grassroots activists, policy makers, advocates, concerned journalists, and others by giving them up-to-date information from on the ground in Darfur and offering practical pressure points to end the violence.

The Save Darfur Coalition: The SDC includes more than 170 organizations working toward more international involvement in combating the killing in Darfur. Contributions allow them to continue raising awareness in the media and directing pressure toward policymakers.

Genocide Intervention Network: GI-Net supports African Union peacekeepers currently on the ground in Sudan by channeling private donations into the resources they need and catalyzing government support for the peacekeepers. They also started the anti-genocide hotline 1-800-GENOCIDE.

The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation aims to empower war-affected Southern Sudanese communities by constructing schools, increasing access to quality education, improving girls’ enrollment in school, creating new teacher-training programs, and promoting literacy for children, women, and men.

In May 2009, the Foundation opened a brand new secondary school in Valentino's hometown of Marial Bai, Southern Sudan. It's the very first secondary school in the entire region. Donations to Valentino’s foundation go directly to support this new school, and to expand the campus into a large educational center, comprising the following:

The nine-classroom secondary school featuring a science lab, computer rooms, solar power, and student dormitories.

A teacher-training college bringing together local teachers, members of the Sudanese diaspora, and Western educators through collaborative teaching methods and symposia.

A library offering literacy programs for children, women, and men, a well-lighted study space for students, and a collection of more than 10,000 books.

A community center for local organizations, women’s groups, and cultural events, as well as classes for vocational training and community health and hygiene.

Sports facilities and programming for youth enrichment.Now that the school is built, we need your help to keep it running and to finish the educational center; please consider making a donation .

To hold a fundraiser, contact

To donate by mail, send your tax-deductible check to The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, 849 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110. You will be sent a notice confirming the donation and a tax receipt.

There are Sudanese all over the United States, and it doesn't take long to find a community near you. Volunteer at a local non-profit organization that helps refugees, such as the International Rescue Committee, or use search tools like Volunteer Match. Rest assured that communities of exiles and refugees near you can use your help—financially, logistically, and with the many other adjustments to life in the United States.

The Sudan Divestment Task Force is coordinating dozens of "targeted divestment" campaigns around the world. Their approach focuses on maximizing impact on the Sudanese government while protecting Sudanese civilians and the organizations that provide for them. Since U.S.-based pension funds have more than $90 billion invested in Sudan-related holdings, the potential impact is significant. Several states have already adopted the targeted divestment model, and legislation is pending in many others. You can help by getting involved in campaigns in your area—in your city, your state, your school, or your company. The Task Force also has everything you need to know to start a new campaign if none exists where you live.

According to the peace agreement signed between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, in 2011 the south will be able to vote on whether or not they want to secede from the north and become their own autonomous country. This is the course favored by Valentino Deng and most Southern Sudanese. But in order for this to happen, the international community needs to maintain pressure on Khartoum. If the current course continues, whereby the world stands idly by and watches Khartoum annihilate its own people in Darfur, there will be little chance that the Sudanese government will honor their agreement to allow the secession of Southern Sudan. Already the Southern Sudanese are preparing for another civil war. But it doesn't have to be this way. If the world supports the Southern Sudanese financially and politically, the nascent government of Southern Sudan will grow stronger, and Khartoum will find it more difficult to violate their agreement.

The same government prosecuting the genocide in Sudan is the one that was primarily responsible for two million deaths in Southern Sudan. How long are we going to allow this to occur without imposing some kind of cost? In July 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity-but much more can be done by the international community to enact punitive measures against Sudan. In your letters to members of Congress, you should demand that they support U.N. sanctions on responsible Sudanese officials and their businesses, and demand that the U.S. declassifies and shares its considerable intelligence with the International Criminal Court to accelerate indictments against those officials.

Many advocacy organizations are already working to help end the suffering in Sudan. Here are just a few resources available to you:

For students: With over 600 college and high-school chapters across the nation, STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) is one of the largest grassroots efforts advocating an end to the genocide in Darfur. Students should visit the STAND website to find out how they can get involved.

For congregations: If you belong to a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, get your community involved in Sudan advocacy. Many national religious organizations have taken up the cause, but it is more meaningful when a local group contacts their congressperson or senator and tells them that this issue is important to them as voters and as people of faith. Congregations can learn more by joining the Save Darfur Congregational Network, which offers Faith Action Packs with specific resources for faith-based organizations.


For communities: Local groups have played a critical role in pushing for action on Darfur. At the Save Darfur website, you can search for community organizations in your area, or learn how to start your own group.
Don't wait for others to do something about this and don't wait for tomorrow.  Do whatever you can to help, spread the word and tell others what they can do to help.  Keep this tragedy in the spotlight, bring attention to it and together we will succeed.  Saving a life should be always be a priority, always.

Editor: J. Schapiro

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