2017-08-02 / Editorial

Jewish community should help those starving in Africa

Among the 20 million people at risk of illness and death due to a spreading famine in the Greater Horn of Africa are 2,000 Ugandan Jews.

The Abayudaya, a Jewish community living in a hilly, rural area that in the best of times lacks paved roads, consistent electricity and freely running water, faces overwhelming challenges due to drought. Down to one meal a day, people “look dehydrated and starving,” according to Gershom Sizomu, the community’s rabbi. Two community members who already were sick have died of malnutrition.

According to JTA, beyond this small community, millions more – including many women and children - face a similar plight. The famine is considered the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations in 1945.

Responding to our obligation to help our own as well as others in dire straights, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has revived a Jewish Coalition for East Africa Relief. It is our hope that, by raising awareness of this unfolding tragedy, our Jewish community will do what it always does in times of crisis: Help the people who are suffering.

Perhaps because the famine has been a gradually building crisis, response has been lackluster. So far, the 24 Jewish member group coalition has only raised a modest $10,000 — not enough to even begin planning for allocations, according to Will Recant, the coalition’s chair.

As for the Ugandan Jews, Sizomu said he is hoping the coming harvest will allay some of the danger and hopes to refocus the community’s attention on setting up water storage and irrigation systems to plan for the next drought, which is inevitable. Developing the necessary infrastructure will be costly. And in the meantime, people are still starving – both Jews and non- Jews. For more information, please visit http://www.jdc.org/jcdr/where-we-work/horn-of-africa.html 

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