Monday, October 02, 2006
Woman recounts how gunmen killed husband, children
Yesterday, I met a woman who shared with me one of the most horrible stories I have ever heard.

She had fallen asleep at her home one night, after staying up talking to her husband about the best education options for her daughter and son. They didn't have a lot of money, but public schools simply weren't an option, because she felt they could not provide the quality schooling she dreamed of for her children. So, they argued a bit about whether they could afford to send her children to a private school.

So far, this probably sounds like a common story -- a mom in search of the best future for her children. But here is where the tale takes a tragic and unimaginable turn.

A few hours later, they were awakened by a sound she had never heard before -- short, loud cracks she later learned were gunshots. This young mother grabbed her daughter and placed her in a backpack baby carrier and started to run. She watched as armed bandits came into her home and shot her husband and son dead. She continued to run frantically until another sharp crack sounded and suddenly her daughter strapped in on her back went quiet and limp. The young daughter had inadvertently saved her mother's life, and died doing it. The woman ran and ran, until the gunfire could no longer be heard and then started to walk. She walked for over 30 miles.

For her entire life, her home had been Darfur, Sudan. Now, for the past three years, she has lived in a refugee camp in eastern Chad.

For the past week, I have been living among refugees in Chad, where the vast majority of the more than 200,000 citizens of Darfur have fled. Upon arrival in this country, I was immediately struck by the fact that most of Chad might resemble a refugee camp to many people. After all, there is absolutely no evidence of industry in the entire eastern part of the country. There are no paved roads and only one percent of the country has access to a restroom with modern plumbing. One out of every five children die before the age of five and the basics of health care, such as vaccinations, antibiotics and clean water, are considered a luxury.

Members of UNICEF and UNHCR have given me a unique look at life inside the many refugee camps in this country. These camps have been filling up remarkably quickly with tens of thousands of people living in very close quarters. They complain bitterly of not enough food and clothing. They wish they had better roofs over their heads than sorghum branches tied together with twine. During rain season, they get wet and muddy. They are bored out of their minds.

Nonetheless, these camps have a strong "pull" factor. People fleeing violence in Darfur find their way here. Also, the living conditions throughout much of Chad are so terrible that many people will simply pack up their belongings and move into refugee camps, which ironically offer a better way of life than most people in Chad could ever hope to see.

In addition to the World Food Programme, which provides a ration of food, and Doctors Without Borders, which provides health care, UNICEF does something the young mother I met would have really appreciated. They provide an education, something her two young children will never get to experience.
Posted By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent: 2:30 PM ET
  47 Comments
Dr. Gupta,
Please be careful there.

You mentioned the children dying before the age of five. Are the causes of death something that can be avoided by the use of vaccines and supplies, or is it other ailments that take their young lives?
Posted By Anonymous Becky, Cleveland, Ohio : 3:00 PM ET
Doctor Gupta, please tell us the best way to help. Which are the most reliable Organizations to send donations to and what is needed i.e. clothing, toys etc.

Also, what is the most direct way to ensure our donations get directly to the people instead of getting caught up in red tape?

I hope AC360 lets people know how to help and does it often during the show.
Posted By Anonymous Ash, Vancouver, BC, Canada : 3:18 PM ET
All of this is profoundly sad. So sad it's almost hard to get one's mind around. On the one hand, I think that if we all pulled together, we can fix these horrible places. But then, on the other hand, I let my mind think what's the use--there have always been and always will be horrible inequities among the human beings. It's not so different from other animals that are disadvantaged and become swallowed-up by the predator. The difference here is that these human predators are doing all this out of hatred and not out of a need for survival.
I sometimes wonder if all the attempts at humanitarian aid has not made many African cultures weaker. Perhaps only through this horrific strife will a stronger continent emerge that says "no" to exploitation, corruption and violence. May God bless this continent that is the birthplace of us all.
Posted By Anonymous eugene, alpharetta, ga : 3:46 PM ET
Can someone from CNN look into who is keeping watch on the gov't agency responsible for directing billions in oil revenues to combating poverty? Where is all the tax money going that comes in from the multi-national oil companies?
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 3:50 PM ET
Dear Anderson,
I suppose I am older than you-a 50-something baby boomer. When I was a little girl in grammer school, the nuns would talk about AFRICA. Same story: conflict and poor starving people. I guess things never change, they only get worse. When will Africans even start to take of their problems? Could it possibly be their culture of fighting and violence?
Posted By Anonymous Mary Ellen Blinn Woodland Hills California : 3:52 PM ET
Unimaginable horror. The 'dark Continent' is becoming the 'lost continent'. Do the refugees have a comment on all the 'political, power struggles' or are they just victims who are caught in the crossfire?
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 3:52 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

I am just so pleased that you and CNN are there. The world needs to know what is happening and when it comes from a respected journalist and network says allot more than a high glossed superstar actor/actress. Thank you again CNN. Thank you so much.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 3:57 PM ET
Dr. Gupta,

What is being done to improve the health of those dying in plain sight? Is there anyway Americans can help?
Posted By Anonymous Daniel Nikbakht, Dix Hils NY : 4:05 PM ET
Hey Dr. Gupta,

Be careful out there. I hope that AC360 lets us know how to help. Good luck!
Posted By Anonymous Ben Forbes, Tempe, AZ : 4:06 PM ET
Dr Gupta,
I am glad to see AC360 focusing on Darfur/Sudan. This area has seen so much distruction and needs much attention and love. This young mother is just one example of thousands just like her. It's sensless killing.

Will justice ever be served for the people committing such crimes? Did we learn from Rwanda?
Posted By Anonymous Teresa, San Francisco, CA : 4:16 PM ET
How is it possible that we live in a world where "sorghum branches tied together with twine" is more than some can hope to have in a lifetime? I can't wrap my head around someone fleeing to a refugee camp of their own volition because the conditions there are better.

Surely we can do better than this?
Posted By Anonymous Claire Colvin, White Rock, BC : 4:21 PM ET
I really doubt the story.Sure they were discussing school,sure she had never heard a gun shot and then, a "save" by the baby.

Right.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Fredricksburg,VA : 4:27 PM ET
Was there any reason given for the attack on this woman and her family?
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Minneapolis MN : 4:30 PM ET
Is it sad or frightening that we live within a social system that chooses to ignore humans struggling to survive while attempting to impose an ideal of democracy? Our hypocrisy has reached a level that makes our fallacies undeniable; we have submitted to a government that no longer provides for the well-being of its people but rather ensures it's own stability as a medium for control. There needs to be a revolution in civiity and compassion that brings our common humanity to the forefront of social conscious, only then we will truly be equal and truly be free.
Posted By Anonymous Nashid Ali, Pittsburgh, PA : 4:38 PM ET
Oh great, and we are spending a whole lot of money and lives "freeing" Iraq, a country who just wants us out of there....better to spend the money on these poor people who have been displaced and have nowhere to go. I cannot imagine the horror of having my son and husband shot in front of me, much less have my daughter shot while I was carrying her. I wish I had the money to help these people myself, but I dont. However, we all, together, can lobby congress to help and to get involved via our tax money. Lets stop spending on the useless Iraq war and acually do something for the good. I am going to write to my Congressman and Representatives right now and ask for just that. I hope others will join me.
Posted By Anonymous Angie, Rapid City, SD : 2:46 AM ET
I know these are horrible times for the people of Darfur and god know they have been suffering for a long time. I also know that help is on the way they just have to hold out a little longer, because this present administration believes in democracy for all and just as soon as they are stable in Iraq we will be headed to Darfur to bring these murderers to trial just like we did to Saddam. The president has stated that we will stamp out this murdering of innocent people where ever it may be. Didn't he???
Posted By Anonymous D. Parker , Macon Ga. : 3:50 AM ET
Such a sad story it makes me want to cry. Whats thid crazy world comming to? People murdering women and children in an attempt to gain godlyness in the after life. Unfortunatly it seems like the media is reporting more and more stories like this one everyday. Is the world really becoming more violent or is the media becoming more negative. What about the starving homeless people in our own country. Shouldnt we help them before we help people thousands of miles away.I understand the fact that we cant turn are backs on these people nor am I saying we should but I've always been taught do for your own before you do for others. Maybe thats selfish but its a dog eat dog world out there baby. Thats all I got for now Im out.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Marion, Indiana : 4:01 AM ET
I think the issue that really needs to be examined is our approach to the spread of democracy. Democracy is, supposed to be, rule by the people for the people. If people truly are to unite and have a say in their government then they need to be educated, healthy, and organized. Democracy should be a choice people choose for themselves, not something that is given, or force feed, to them. In order for them to have the capacity to make that choice these people need a quality of life that allows them to go about their daily lives without having to worry about the roofs over their heads or if they will have enough to eat to avoid starvation. Only after basic life necessities are guaranteed can people begin to work on changing their society. I commend you Dr. Gupta for going out of your way to understand these people where most, me included, do little more than talk.

I sincerely hope that the powers of the world realize, soon, that it is their responsibility to care for ALL of the less fortunate on this planet of ours... not to tell them how to live
Posted By Anonymous Ty Herlocher, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania : 4:04 AM ET
The story about the family discussing their children's education the night before the children were shot dead, shows how much they are just like us.
Posted By Anonymous Si, Philsdelphia, PA : 4:24 AM ET
I can't believe things like this happen everyday in the world while we go merrily about our business. People should be made aware of these things.
Posted By Anonymous David, La Jolla, CA : 4:43 AM ET
Dr. Gupta;

How very, very sad......We, as Americans, are very spoiled compared to other parts of the world as is evidenced by your story. It is also so hard to comprehend that these horrific incidents are happening in the Sudan while their own government officials turn a blind eye to what is going on!!!!

Ever since I was a child, I heard that we, as Americans need to help educate the people in poorer countries. What good is it to educate the Sudanese people when THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS turn a blind eye to atrocities committed RIGHT ON THEIR OWN DOORSTEP???

I feel for the innocent victims, I really do; but it's time for the Government of Sudan to start helping their own people instead of pilfering from them! The Sudanese need to get the corrupt officials out of their own govenment offices; and only THEN they will see changes for the better in their lives!
Posted By Anonymous Deborah Kaczorowski/ North Cape May, NJ : 4:53 AM ET
Dr. Gupta,

First and foremost, thank you for opening our eyes, more fully, to the horrors these people are dealing with everyday. It shames me to think that we apparently learned nothing after Rwanda. Why are we, nor the rest of the world, helping more? What can the average person do to help?
Posted By Anonymous Kelly, Marietta GA : 6:54 AM ET
I don't know which is more horrifying...the story itself...or the cynical commentary given by "Dave" of Fredericksburg VA. The violence in Darfur says a lot about the despotic culture in some third world countries. The commentary by "Dave" says a lot about ours. Truly sad.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Austin Texas : 8:22 AM ET
Thanks for the story. Based on it, I will increase my annual contribution to Doctors Without Borders. Their contribution to serve the needy is worth our support.
Posted By Anonymous Phil, Atlanta, GA : 8:31 AM ET
I am amazed, and frightened at the same time, when considering the "lives" people are subjected to just to survive.
Autrocities are occuring daily in the world. We go on in our busy lives ignorant to others who are suffering. When brought to our attention, many feel bad or guilty and send help for a short time to ease their minds.
Is this enough?
Does this help?
Attention needs to be continuous to make an impact. I hope as time passes this area of the world is not forgotten.
Posted By Anonymous Diane, Ocala, Fl. : 8:33 AM ET
To Dave from Fredricksburg,

The ignorance and denial you are spewing is not helping. Open your eyes and see that this lady and her family are one of millions this is happening to in Africa every day. You just choose not to believe it. These people are poor and have no options or resources and YOU have the nerve to discount it? What a shame.

Unlike you, I do what I can.
Posted By Anonymous tanya, london, canada : 8:44 AM ET
Until something drastic is done about
the government in Africa, nothing will
really change. And pouring more and more money into that political cesspool isn't helping the general population one iota.
Posted By Anonymous R.S. Gannon,Ft.Worth,TX : 9:09 AM ET
I think what upset me most about this story is that when I initially read the first part, I thought it was something that had happened right here in this country, and I thought oh no, here we go again with another senseless killing of a family in America. It wasn't until Dr. Gupta mentioned it happened in Sudan that I realized it wasn't.

Shouldn't this be a wake-up call that we need to clean up our own country as well?
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Denver, CO : 9:31 AM ET
Dr. Gupta:

I worked extinsively in Africa including Sudan for a seed company. I recall when we were in Cameroon, armed militia men broke into the office and demanded money from the general manager. In Sudan, the environment was better due to our management and the lack of crime in Khartoum, however one heard of toruture for dissidents and there was a climate of fear. The irony of this all is that the Africans as people are very hard working (West African women are some of the best traders on the planet) and good people. It is their politicians ruled by the power of the gun that have let them down. Until that changes, it is difficult to envison change.

Mahesh
Posted By Anonymous Mahesh, Hampton, NH : 9:31 AM ET
How can we hope to alleviate the suffering in Africa, when we can't seem to do the same in our own country. Granted, the situation is more dire in Darfur than in Detroit, but when people in the US are homeless and hopeless it makes me doubt how successful we can be in other countries.

Maybe we should look at the time and money spent in re-election campaigns, and require candidates to spend an equal amount of both with charitable organizations. A little hands-on education goes a long way.
Posted By Anonymous Deb, Richmond VA : 9:37 AM ET
This story really broke my heart. I have two small children & a husband & couldn't imagine anything happening to them. My heart goes out to this mother & the many like her.
Posted By Anonymous Denise M. Cincinnati, Ohio : 9:51 AM ET
It's a shocking world we live in. I am truely disguested by the thoughts of pepople like bandits, robbers, terrorists, etc... I can't comprehend how they can take a life so easily, how they can steal from someone something that does not belong to them. How they can be so cruel to bring tears to someone elses eyes, and all for a bit of land, power, money.

I really do not see any hope for this world. There are millions of intelligent, smart, family loving individuals walking around, going about their daily routines to succeed in life thru hard work. They struggle thru life to be the best and provide the best they can.

Yet, on the other hand, we have a group of people (bandits, terrorists, etc.) who want to successed just as equally but they go to any extent necessary. Tears do not come to their eyes when they see life being taken away by themselves or by someone else. However, tears do come to their eyes when they see the life of a relative being taken away.

Are we all in some way or another not connected? Atleast as human beings?
Posted By Anonymous Viren Patel, Atlanta, Georgia : 10:00 AM ET
The story of what's happening in central Africa is not being covered by other networks (unless it relates to George Clooney). You have to wonder if racism is involved-- the perception that the deaths of black or brown people don't matter as much. I am a reasonable well-informed person and I had no idea what was happening in the Congo. Thank you for educating me.
Posted By Anonymous Annick, New Orleans, LA : 10:00 AM ET
Horrific. As Foley dominates our headlines the world's children die from starvation and violence and we do basically nothing. God will reward us for deeds left undone.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Hall-Russell, Indpls. IN : 10:06 AM ET
You know, I am not trying to be mean or unsupportive of the problems in Africa and it is absolutely dreadful. But until our troops come home and are out of harms way, I could care less right now. It is getting very scary how the current administration is running the war in Iraq and maybe CNN and Anderson Cooper should stick to what is on our minds here at home and Africa, unfortunately is not that important to Americans.
Posted By Anonymous Tom, Detroit, MI : 10:47 AM ET
Stopping this genocide is a cause worthy of our money and resources. If Saddam Hussein's regime was bad then this is truly evil. I wonder why Darfur is a UN problem when we were more than willing to invade Iraq unilaterally? Why do we have a double standard?
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 10:59 AM ET
Thank you for keeping the media spotlight on this desperate issue! Many people have posted comments asking how they can help. SaveDarfur.org is the best place to go. I'm not a member, just a passionate Mom who wants the genocide to end. We need to continue to pressure our government and the UN to send in UN troops! Thanks again!
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Ypsilanti, MI : 11:09 AM ET
Tom from Detroit...speak for yourself.

Yes, I'd love for the war to end... but it doesn't look like that is going to happen anytime soon... So what you are saying is to turn the other cheek until the war is over? Our troops shouldn't even be over there, but that's another story.

Women and children are dying by the hundreds/maybe thousands every day! Being the strongest country in the world our duty should be to help those in need of help. And in my opinion, we should be over in Africa where there is hardly any hope.

This is 2006, this should not be happening in this day and age.

I think it's a shame that you think this isn't important right now.

Anderson and team, Thank you for keeping us in the loop. God bless.
Posted By Anonymous Christine, Toms River, NJ : 4:45 PM ET
How can we help?
I have yet to hear anyone mention the easiest way any of us around the globe can help - with prayer.
Pray for these people who are oppressed and face horrific situations on a daily basis, pray for people in power -- pray that evil hearts and minds be changed. God help us all.
Posted By Anonymous Andrea, Cincinnati OH : 5:03 PM ET
I find it irritating that when presented with the daily sufferings and dire situations of other nations, you will always find an American response about how we need to take care of our own people first--how we have homeless, hungry and hopeless people right here in our own country.

First of all, the reasons differ as to why people are homeless, hungry and hopeless in the United States versus Third World Countries. I worked with the homeless for five years in Denver and I would say that 99.9% of the homeless were homeless because they had chosen a chemical dependency (usually alcohol) over everything else. There were exceptions, but these were rare and few. Chemical dependency will almost always lead to helplessness, hopelessness, homelessness and hunger. In my adult life, I have had at least three people confide in me about how they remember being hungry at various times growing up, but yet, there was always beer and cigarettes in the house.

Second, pray for the faster spread of globalization: first China, then India, next Africa. Globalization will take care of most of this unnecessary suffering.
Posted By Anonymous C. Hill, Denver, Colorado : 5:07 PM ET
I think stories like this one make me want to meet with the government officials, bang their heads together and shout for them to wake up. Their people should be their biggest assets. These people could be educated and taught to rebuild a dying nation. Maybe for now they can be fed , better trained to protect themselves and hopefully, survive. Thank God for all of the Agencies and Doctors who are trying to make a difference. Thanks for all of your hard work, also. Be safe!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 5:20 PM ET
Hello Dr. Gupta~
Watching your children die is the worst possible thing in the world I can imagine. I know this from my work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and yet, it is difficult for me to grasp the fear, trauma, and deplorable conditions that these human beings have to endure. How can we as a civilized society stand by and allow such atrocities to exist? This poor woman walking away from her family being murdered. I took care of my Father this year as he slowly died of cancer. I walked for miles eveyday. I think in some way I thought I could walk away the pain and suffering he was feeling. This woman who walked 30 miles to find refuge from the killers of her family really moved my heart. Thanks Dr. Gupta for sharing the pain of the people in this region. Ignorance is bliss. Without knowledge thier pain we can not help them to heal.~ God speed to all.~
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 6:10 PM ET
What is the purpose of the U.N. other than to serve the most needy of the world. Who sets the priorities and should politics play a part in the dispersion of troops. Absolutely not.
Either shape up or start a new agency that is run by mililtary forces whose purpose is to stop regimes who only purpose is to prosecute their own people for their lousy self benefiting purpose. Come on people start a verbal uprising to stop the hoodlums of the world and in this nations in Africa. Someone has to stop the slaughter.
Posted By Anonymous Thomas Shumar, Wilmington De : 6:58 AM ET
How can the people of America make a difference in the lives of the women and children being brutally raped and murdered in Africa? Why was the man in charge of one of the rebel militias offered a place in the Congolese government? Why does the world allow these atrocities to go on in this day and age? They are defenseless victims- what can we do to help? The rapists and murderers need to be held accountable by their government- the government militias are outgunned, outmanned and are afraid of the rebel militias. This will continue to go on until the government militias are supplied and bolstered by other countries to assist in the effort. My heart goes out to the African people that are suffering needlessly by brutal monsters.
Posted By Anonymous Andrea Walker, Bethlehem, GA : 8:42 AM ET
Wake up United Nations - these people have seen enough atrocities and suffering. War on the bandits operating in Africa causing all this misery to a lot of good people.
Wake up United Nations, have a good look at all this turmoil and do something constructively not only talking. Its all right for politicians who go home and find a hot meal and servants awaiting them with a good life surrounding them. Think again you guys at the United nations, do something about this miserable issue of the suffering people of Africa. This is a great continent and yet it is being ravaged and slaughtered. Why ?
Posted By Anonymous J. Amato , St Andrews, Malta. : 4:24 PM ET
Darfur is just another case of using reglion to abuse those who aren't like those who have the power. It is time for Africians with power like South Africa and the Islamic countries with assets like the Saudi's to rain in the Islamic gov'ts who are running over Darfur to stop this rampage. The West , particularly the US, cannot be the only answer. If we are, there will be no answers.
Posted By Anonymous Jim Raleigh NC : 4:28 PM ET
I hope no one out there thinks that our gov't will help with out the efforts of individuals speaking out. It takes the efforts of people who believe there is something wrong going on to make a difference. Sometimes it is hard to wake up to these realities.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy, Tucson, Arizona : 1:00 AM ET
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