NEW MILFORD – Like actor George Clooney, whose humanitarian efforts on behalf of Darfur are well-known, Tyler Balding is a man with a mission and a message.
As administrator of the Mother of Mercy Hospital in South Kordofan, Sudan, the young lawyer is feverishly trying to raise awareness about the genocide being perpetrated by the Sudanese government on innocent civilians in the Nuba Mountains.
The great-grandson of the founder of the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), the leading U.S. Catholic charity focused on global health care, Mr. Balding is working to save lives by helping to distribute medicine and medical supplies to the people in the region he serves.
Mr. Balding, who was raised in Connecticut and was a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New Milford, and two colleagues from the Diocese of El Obeid sat down with The Catholic Transcript during a series of visits they made to the United States recently to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in their diocese.
Mr. Balding said the Sudanese government has been running daily bombing raids on the civilians of the Nuba Mountains with Ukranian-made Antonovs and MIGs. Their strategy is to kill or starve the two million people in the region, half of whom are Christians, to gain access to oil reserves that lie underground.
Although numbers are difficult to gather, it is estimated that well over 350,000 people have been driven out of their homes in South Kordofan over the past year, he said.
As is happening with Darfur, the mass atrocity and brutal ethnic cleansing has attracted little attention from the international community. Meanwhile, the people, who hide in caves with little more than plants and insects to eat, are being starved, massacred, raped and bombed by the government, which hopes to crush the rebel movement.
Simultaneously, the Sudanese government, under the leadership of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has also barred aid workers and journalists from the area, and blocked all access roads that can bring in food and medical supplies.
Mr. Balding said that his hospital, designed for 80 patients, currently has 500 inpatients living on the property, mostly in tents and in the open, who are being treated for malnutrition, burns, severed limbs and other atrocities from the war.
His hospital receives supplies from the New York City-based CMMB, which his great grandfather Dr. Paluel Joseph Flagg planted the seeds for in 1912 when he was a young anesthesiology resident on the staff of St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. It was his dream to assist missionaries destined for medical work in foreign lands.
Just as his great-grandfather became a spokesman for "the destitute," Mr. Balding is following in his footsteps.
"We are currently the only organization providing food and medicine to [this] region with a population of approximately 2 million people," he said.
The hospital’s administrative team from the diocese is among the few voices advocating an end to the bombing of civilians, the right of self-determination for the Nuba people, and the opening of a humanitarian corridor that would allow basic necessities to enter the region, he explained.
The film "Terror in Sudan" by journalists Aidan Hartley and Daniel Bogado chronicles their work at Mother of Mercy and the violence being carried out by the government on the Nuba people.
A Time magazine reporter last year described the military campaign as "a bloodbath." Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, warned earlier this year that if there is not a substantial new inflow of aid, the situation in the province of Southern Kordofan, where the Nuba live, will be "one step short of full-scale famine."
Mr. Balding and his team are working in conjunction with Bishop Macram Max Gassis of El Obeid Diocese. The bishop has established a relief fund for his diocese in Sudan, which covers an area larger than the state of Texas.
Contributions may been sent to: Bishop Gassis Sudan Relief Fund, PO Box 7084, Merrifield, VA 22116-9798. Phone: 1-888-488-0348.