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January 21, 2019

Book takes readers into the heart of Darfur

The book cover
The book cover

Title: Heart of Darfur

Author: Lisa Blaker

Publisher: Hodder Books, 2007

Volume: 348 pages

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart. That is what the author conveys in her book.

Heart of Darfur is warmly written, with the native of New Zealand giving a human face to the conflict, how victims struggle with hope in a hostile environment.

After just nine months in Darfur, a nurse came out and wrote a book about the area, a volatile province in South Sudan.

The book gives a fresh perspective of Darfur away from that of expatriates, researchers or journalists. You get a human face to the conflict written by a nurse.

The good part of the book is that it keeps off the history of the conflict, the marauding Arab-Islam Janjaweed gangs, and failures of Sudan government and new South Sudan government, which got independence in July 2011.

Neither does it dwell on the failure of the African Union, United Nations and civic organisations, all of which have mostly been written about.

While the writer gives a fleeting mention of the above failures, her books zeros in on the impact on women, children and entire communities who are treated at the back of MSF vehicles in bushes.

The candour of the book is brought by how a man weeps after losing all his camels or a prized family donkey. Or a man forced to throw his eight-days-old daughter in the bush to save her from advancing soldiers who ended up beating him, while saving his daughter.

Or how small children, the real victims of wars, walked for six hours to get treatment, showing the shame of war in their tears, hollow eyes and bleak future.

Darfur covers an area of 500,000km sq. It's the size of France. It is home to six million people, and more than a third of them have been displaced by the war. Probably half a million have been killed since war officially began in February 2003 against the repressive Khartoum government.

Forced to share makeshift nomadic houses with the community and work in abandoned clinics, Blaker and her colleagues point to extraordinary life as seen by residents and their children; their loss, hope, fear and dreams.

Despite being homeless, on the run and starving, they still shared rags for homes, water or food, even if brought in old, battered bowls.

Heart of Darfur warmly captures a people not looking for sympathy, but hope amid tattered pride and life in a war-torn area.

By writing this book, Lisa realises her dream of making a difference in the world.


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