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Mary F. Diaz, 42; Led Efforts to Aid Refugee Women and Children

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Mary F. Diaz, 42, executive director of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, died of pancreatic cancer on Feb. 12 at a hospital in New York City.

Founded by actress Liv Ullman in 1989, the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children is a nongovernmental group that works under the auspices of the International Rescue Committee.

Under Diaz, who led the commission from 1994 until late last year, the organization grew from a staff of four with a budget of $450,000 to a staff of 20 with a budget of more than $4 million. Most of the group’s workers are volunteers stationed in war zones throughout the world to aid women and children whose lives are disrupted by combat. Diaz helped start projects in Rwanda, Tanzania, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

Diaz was born in Newport News, Va. and graduated from Brown University. She worked as a writer in television news in Philadelphia before getting her master’s degree in international education at Harvard.

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She served as director of refugee and immigration services for Catholic Charities in Boston before becoming head of the Women’s Commission in New York City.


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