Refugee camps. Wounded children. Burned villages. Google Earth is showing all this and more in an effort to raise awareness and action in the Darfur region of the Sudan.
Just over a week after being accused of airbrushing history for displaying pre-Katrina images on Google Earth, the search giant announced a partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to offer its latest online mapping initiative that shows the devastation of four years of fighting between the East African nation's Arab-dominated government and the mostly black residents of the Darfur region.
"At Google, we believe technology can be a catalyst for education and action," said Elliot Schrage, Google vice president of Global Communications and Public Affairs. The Crisis in Darfur project, he explained, is intended to help Google Earth users "visualize and learn about the destruction in Darfur as never before and join the Museum's efforts in responding to this continuing international catastrophe."
Sudan Crisis Unfolds
Crisis in Darfur lets Google Earth's more than 200 million users see and more effectively understand the genocide unfolding in the region. The Museum has assembled content -- photographs, data, and eyewitness testimony -- from several sources that are brought together for the first time in Google Earth. This information will appear as a Global Awareness layer in Google Earth starting today.
Crisis in Darfur is the first project of the Museum's Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative that over time will include information on potential genocides allowing citizens, governments, and institutions to access data on atrocities in their nascent stages and respond. The United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced in the conflict.
Responding to Genocide
Content for the Crisis in Darfur program comes from a range of sources -- the U.S. State Department, nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations, individual photographers, and the Museum.
To access the Crisis in Darfur, users must download the Google Earth application, which is available free of charge at http://earth.google.com. Once downloaded, users will find Crisis in Darfur by "flying over" Africa on the map.
The high-resolution imagery in Google Earth lets users zoom in to view more than 1,600 damaged and destroyed villages, providing visual, compelling evidence of the scope of destruction. The remnants of more than 100,000 homes, schools, mosques, and other structures destroyed by the janjaweed militia and Sudanese forces are clearly visible.
"Educating today's generation about the atrocities of the past and present can be enhanced by technologies such as Google Earth," Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield said in a statement. "When it comes to responding to genocide, the world's record is terrible."