How many is 180,000 dead?

The United Nations estimates that 180,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur from killings, disease, malnutrition, and lack of shelter.

Understanding such a large number can be difficult. Maybe these few illustrations will help.

  • Gather 180,000 dead bodies. Start in New York City and, heading southwest, set them down, head to toe, one after another. You’d go about 185 miles, all the way to Baltimore, Maryland, before you ran out of bodies. Except, many of the dead in Darfur are children and infants. This would make the distance shorter, though that’s hardly any comfort.
  • Imagine watching a human being die from starvation, disease, or even violence. Now, imagine watching a fellow human being die every minute, minute after minute. You’d have to watch for 125 days. That’s how much death has already happened occurred in Darfur. But it’s been happening for about 1.5 years, so the actual average is about one death every four to five minutes. And we’re not watching it; we’re ignoring it.
  • As a result of the 9/11 attacks, 2,986 people died. To equal the tragedy of Darfur, the attacks would have to continue until November 10, sixty days later. But Darfur’s population is 6,000,000, about 1/50th that of the United States. To have a proportional impact on the U.S. population would require 3,000 consecutive days of 9/11 casualties, or more than 8 years.

I ask again: how many is 180,000 dead?