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San Luis Obispo, CA

Mario Ruiz is an experienced freelance news photographer and journalist based in San Luis Obispo, California. A veteran of 10 years, Mario is available for assignment on the Central California coast, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.

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The Forgotten Ones

In 2005, Mario traveled to Chad to photograph refugees who had fled atrocities in their home country of Sudan. Mario spent several weeks in already war-torn Chad, who, with the help of international humanitarian groups and the UN, managed to host these survivors. Many thanks to UNICEF for their help and expertise.

IRIDIMI, Chad - The world has had plenty of bad news to keep up with in the last year. The tsunami killed hundreds of thousands in Southeast Asia, the death toll in Iraq rises daily, tremors in Afghanistan and Pakistan have killed tens of thousands, and hurricanes have ravaged the Gulf coast of the United States.

It's no wonder, then, that many seem to have forgotten the human rights tragedy in Darfur. The Arab militia group known as the Janjaweed has been wiping out non-Arab Sudanese for nearly two years and the death toll has swelled to almost 100,000.

In 2003, the Sudanese government funded the Janjaweed to fight rebels in Darfur. The Janjaweed, however, abused their power and began attacking local villages. Since then they have murdered tens of thousands, raped countless women and young girls, burned hundreds of villages leaving almost two million homeless.

Those two million Sudanese are now spread throughout some of the most arid land in Darfur. Approximately 200,000 displaced Sudanese have fled into neighboring Chad.

Chad, however, is in no position to host such a flood of refugees. Local communities helped the refugees while they could, but natural resources, water and food were limited. 

UNHCR officers were the first to respond to the crisis. With the help of several other international NGOs, the UNHCR and UNICEF have dramatically improved the lives of refugees--to the point where local communities have become envious of the care and resources offered to the refugees.

The UNHCR now operates twelve camps in Chad, each camp housing anywhere from 12 to 20 thousand refugees.

UNHCR is doing what it can in both Sudan and Chad, but the Janjaweed continue to attack villages and camps in Darfur, and Sudanese refugees may be staying in Chad for longer than expected. The Sudanese government is doing little to stop the violence and foreign diplomacy is proving ineffective.

Though the number of dead is not as staggering as Rwanda or Congo, Darfur has proven itself a human rights disaster. Sadly, the world turns its head to other "more important" matters and the suffering in Darfur continues almost unnoticed.