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Jewish Charities Announce Initiative To Help Children of Darfur

A coalition of Jewish charities has announced a project to help educate vulnerable Sudanese children living in refugee camps in Chad.

The project is slated to begin next month at the Kashuni camp in northeast Chad. More than 18,000 Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, live at the camp, which has three schools to serve more than 4,500 students. Now a grant of $100,000 from the Jewish charities and the government of Israel will be used to build a fourth school.

Ruth Messinger, the head of the American Jewish World Service, recently visited refugee camps in Chad and Darfur with the International Rescue Committee, the IRC. She says 600 regular students will be taught by Sudanese refugees who have had teacher training. The IRC will provide additional teacher training when necessary. Ms. Messinger, a former president of Manhattan County, says the school will also cater to some non-conventional students.

"The school will be open at all sorts of odd hours to provide some basic literacy training and some vocational training for those children who have ended up becoming the heads of their families and do not feel able to spend a day in school in the camp. The idea for this program is that in addition to running a regular school, there will be an informal educational program, vocational training for those kids in that situation," she said.

The IRC will also provide additional teacher training for seven schools in towns close to the camps in Chad to help ease tensions caused by the influx of refugees. More than 200,000 Sudanese have fled across the border to neighboring Chad.

The charitable groups hope to expand the Sudan Refugee Children's Project to other camps.

A representative of the Massaleit Community in exile, Mohamed Yahya, thanked the Jewish community for its efforts to call attention to the crisis in Darfur. Mr. Yahya, who was a member of the opposition Sudanese People's Liberation Army, said what the people of Darfur need most is a guarantee of security against Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed.

"The issue in Darfur is not only to provide the people with food or shelter or medical treatment," she said. "The issue is security. Without security, you cannot provide for the people because all the food and shelter and medicine are taken by the Janjaweed and taken by the government. It is a policy of destruction," she said.

Mr. Yahya says the failure of the United Nations Security Council to pass a strong resolution against the Sudan government is a disappointment which he blames on council members who are more interested in Sudan's oil than in its human rights record.