Photo by Jen Marlowe.
Tuesday, May 6:
The villagers in Shegeg Karo in North Darfur face an impossible choice. Do they load an 8-year-old girl, possibly with a broken back, into a car and drive her eight-plus hours over the grueling, jolting, unforgiving North Darfur desert to seek medical attention in neighboring Chad–a country with one of the world’s poorest health care systems?
Or do they continue to wait for a United Nations or ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) helicopter to bring medical assistance? Two days earlier, a single Antonov plane circled over Shegeg Karo. Crude bombs were pushed out of the back hatch. The bombs exploded on the village’s market. Eleven people were killed, six of them children from the Shegeg Karo school. Others were badly injured.
No helicopter has yet arrived. As morning slips into afternoon, the skies are still empty and silent and it doesn’t appear that one will be coming that day either. The little girl is unconscious. She hasn’t been able to eat or drink anything since the attack. The other critically injured child, a 14-year-old boy, is conscious, but his speech is slow. He’s drinking water, but hasn’t been able to eat. He has a broken arm and leg and he’s lost a lot of blood…
I first came to Shegeg Karo in 2004 with my colleagues Adam Shapiro and Aisha Bain, filming our documentary Darfur Diaries. We met a young man named Dero in the village market the day after we crossed the border from Chad into Darfur. During the short time we were in Darfur, Dero became our guide, translator and dear friend.
Dero took us to the Shegeg Karo school; a mud hut with a thatched roof. He had built it himself. He told us why:
“No school here in Shegeg Karo. There are more than 3,000 people in this area without any school, any hospital…. After I left secondary school, I couldn’t go to university. I returned back here to build this school, to run it by effort. No one paid me. I tried to call to people to pay for their children so I could teach them. I didn’t care about age. If someone came, more than 20 years, or 7, or 8. My aim was not about age. I wanted to educate people how to read and write.”
Dero had pointed out where the blackboard had been and where the students used to sit on the ground. “Sometimes more than thirty in one class, sometimes less,” he had said. “I tried to teach them how to read and write the alphabet in Arabic. I tried to teach them a few words of English. I taught three years without any salary, but after three years this war happened, and now we stopped. I stopped teaching.”
“Will you build a new school?” Shapiro asked.
“If the war is over and the situation gets better, I can try to build a school again. I will call those who have some education to teach the people here,” Dero answered.