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Hope and a Hospital in War-Torn Darfur

07-29-2011
DarfurHospital3Web

A new hospital rises near Zalingei, Sudan with the help of two USF professors and a USF graduate student.

The idea for bringing once conflicted sides togther in a health care setting came to Adeeb Yousif while being held and tortured by the Sudanese goverment for his human rights work there. While in custody, the intelligence official who had beat and tortured him over an extended period became ill with malaria. As the son of one of the first pharmicists in Darfur, Yousif decided he had no choice but to treat his torturer and nurse him back to health.

Now a University of San Francisco master’s degree student in international studies, Yousif is on the verge of making that distant vision a reality. He and Anne Bartlett, assistant professor of sociology and the director of the USF Master’s Program in International Studies, along with Gamal Adam, adjunct professor of  sociology, recently helped to oversee the construction of a small hospital in a remote area of war-torn Darfur, about 35 miles outside Zalingei, Sudan and are working to recruit staff.

Yousif is the founder of the Darfur Reconciliation and Development Organization (DRDO), a non-governmental organization that advocates for peace in Darfur through sustainable development and advocacy. Bartlett and Adam are directors on DRDO’s board.

The goal of the hospital is to build trust among area residents by providing aid to women, children, and elderly victims on both sides of the war as well as individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, Yousif said.

The region, in western Sudan, has been a battleground since 2003 when longstanding tensions between Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan turned violent. Recently, however, agreements have been reached to grant Southern Sudan secession from the north, potentially opening a door to decreased ethnic and religious violence in the region.

Ideally, DRDO’s hospital will act as a symbol of peace and operate as a source for non-violent interaction among individuals from the south and north, in addition to its role as a medical treatment facility. Doctors and patients at the hospital will come from all sides of the conflict and require a gradual building of trust from those on the other side. It’s an approach commonly used in conflict resolution to humanize enemies.

“Mr. Yousif soon found that the torturer’s attitude towards him began to change. He was released and, after being released, was invited to the home of his former torturer and his family,” Bartlett said. “This ultimate act of forgiveness proved that perpetrators and victims can move beyond hostility.”

“Our aim is to create peace building among different tribes in the area by using one facility,” Yousif said.

In addition to the hospital, the DRDO is developing a school support program for displaced and orphaned children in Zalingai and working on a reforestation project that incorporates local crop cultivation – programs that the organization hopes will expand as support grows.

Written by Laura Waldron »usfnews@usfca.edu