Story Highlights• Google Earth highlights atrocities in Darfur region of Sudan
• Google official: Tool can be "catalyst for education and action"
• Google Earth has 200 million users
• Official: Technology will make it harder to ignore genocide
By Elise Labott
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- If you Google the word Darfur, you will find about 13 million references to the atrocities in the western Darfur region of Sudan -- what the United States has said is this century's first genocide.
As of today, when the 200 million users of Google Earth log onto the site, they will be able to view the horrific details of what's happening in Darfur for themselves.
In an effort to bring more attention to the ongoing crisis in Darfur, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has teamed up with Google's mapping service literally to map out the carnage in the Darfur region.
Experts estimate that 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million more have been displaced since the conflict flared in 2003, when rebels took up arms against the central Sudanese government.
The new initiative, called "Crisis in Darfur," enables Google Earth users to visualize the details in the region, including the destruction of villages and the location of displaced persons in refugee camps. (Interactive: See how the new technology works)
Elliot Schrage, Google's vice president of global communications and public affairs, joined museum director Sara J. Bloomfield to make the official announcement about the new feature.
"At Google, we believe technology can be a catalyst for education and action," Schrage said. " 'Crisis in Darfur' will enable Google Earth users to visualize and learn about the destruction in Darfur as never before and join the museum's efforts in responding to this continuing international catastrophe."
The Google Earth mapping service combines 3-D satellite imagery, aerial and ground-level maps and the power of Google, one of the Internet's most widely used search engines, to make the world's geographic information user friendly. Since its inception in June 2005, nearly 200 million people have downloaded the free program.
Using the high-resolution imagery of Google Earth, users will be able to zoom into the Darfur region for a better understanding of the scope of the destruction. (Interactive: See where Darfur is located)
More than 1,600 damaged and destroyed villages will be visible, as will the remnants of more than 100,000 homes, schools, mosques and other structures destroyed by the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese forces.
The Holocaust museum also has compiled a collection of photos, data and eyewitness testimony from its archives and number of sources, including the U.S. State Department, nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations and individual photographers. That material also will be available when Google Earth users visit the Darfur site.
The "Crisis in Darfur" initiative is the first of what is expected to be several collaborations between the museum and Google Earth to highlight the dangers of genocide around the world.
The museum also announced Tuesday the creation of a mapping project with Google Earth on the Holocaust, when Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II.
That project will use Google Earth to map key Holocaust sites, such as Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, Warsaw and Lodz with historic content from its collections to illustrate the enormous scope and impact of the Holocaust. Each place links to a featured article with related historical photographs, testimony clips, maps, artifacts and film footage.
"Educating today's generation about the atrocities of the past and present can be enhanced by technologies such as Google Earth," Bloomfield said.
"When it comes to responding to genocide, the world's record is terrible. We hope this important initiative with Google will make it that much harder for the world to ignore those who need us the most."
Google Earth hopes to educate users about the atrocities in Darfur through its new "Crisis in Darfur" feature.
DARFUR FACTS The U.N. estimates more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million displaced
The U.N. calls this the worst humanitarian crisis in the world
Darfur is located in western Sudan
Sudan has a population of about 39 million people
Conflict began in February 2003 when black Sudanese rebels attacked government property, accusing the government of neglecting Darfur in favor of the country's Arab population in northern Sudan
The Arab Janjaweed is a pro-government militia accused of killing, raping and burning homes and villages in Darfur
Cease-fire agreements have not been able to hold
The U.N. has pushed for a bigger role to try to help resolve the crisis