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Google, Holocaust Museum offer close view of Darfur violence


Chris Herlinger/RNS

A group of children stand in a village not far from Nyala, a village affected by violence in southern Darfur. A new way of looking at the widespread devastation is available through Google Earth.

WASHINGTON (RNS) — An unprecedented look at the devastating crisis in Darfur is a free download away under a new partnership between the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Google.

Using the mapping technology of Google Earth, people can – with a single click – pinpoint villages and huts that have been burned to the ground and track the steps of the hundreds of thousands of refugees.

“People around the world need to see what genocide looks like,” Daowd Salih, a Darfurian refugee, said at an April 10 news conference announcing the partnership. “It is not about numbers, it is about people.”

An estimated 400,000 people have died in Darfur, a war-torn western province of Sudan, where the Khartoum government is accused of supporting Arab “Janjaweed” militias against black Africans. The U.S. government has called the conflict genocide since 2004.

Links to photos, videos, personal accounts and data are provided on Google Earth’s “Global Awareness” layer by the Holocaust museum. Museum director Sara Bloomfield called it an attempt to create “understanding and empathy” to create a “community of conscience.”

Bloomfield compared Darfur to the Holocaust, saying people either were unaware or skeptical of reports that Hitler and the Nazis were terrorizing Jews before and during World War II.

Partnerships like this one will provide more access to the facts of the Darfur situation and facilitate a greater ability to help, Bloomfield said. Just because genocide is happening far from home is no excuse for ignorance or inaction, she said.

Elliot Schrage of Google Earth said users will get a view of Darfur that they can’t obtain by reading statistics or everyday news reports.

“We are trying to visualize the genocide to spark people to action,” Schrage said.