Ending Famine in Africa
Currently, more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa (see map at right) are facing severe food shortages. The famine, which was largely prompted by the worst drought in 60 years and is compounded by civil conflict, is causing deaths and mass migration - more than 220,000 Somalis have left their homes this year in search of food and safety, and, as of the end of September, more than 30,000 children have died. Furthermore, low agricultural yields resulting from the arid conditions have caused an increase in food prices, making it even more difficult for families to secure what little food is available. Efforts to relieve the famine and reduce the death rate are further complicated when extreme hunger makes those infected with illness such as malaria and HIV/AIDS less able to combat the diseases.
This crisis also takes a serious toll on efforts to curb the longstanding poverty in the region,
since formal education - a necessity for rising out of poverty -
is difficult to attain when adults are unable to operate the schools and
children are unable to attend classes. Nevertheless, many individuals have teamed with non-profit organizations in their work to alleviate suffering in the region. Julia Fingleson, a member of URJ Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California, is one such individual who actively sought justice, motivated by her Jewish faith. We asked Julia, 24, to share her experience and thoughts with RACblog readers:
I spent the summer of 2011 in Kenya volunteering with an organization called Maji Mazuri, which means "good water" in Swahili. Maji Mazuri is a grassroots movement founded by Wanjiku Kironyo, a woman I now call my hero. Wanjiku and her team focus on the underlying causes of poverty and empower people to bring about change in their own lives. With more than six schools in Kenya, ranging from nurseries to high schools, Maji Mazuri acts on the belief that education is a way out of poverty. I spent most of my time in the Children's Center, which helps children with physical and mental disabilities, many of whom have been abandoned or abused because of their disabilities.
But even an amazing organization like Maji Mazuri is suffering to make ends meet. With the rising cost of fuel, and the worst drought in 60 years, food prices have more than tripled within the last couple of months. Kenyans are starving; Somalians are starving; men women and children all over Africa are starving. The most disturbing part is we have the power to do something, yet we aren't doing nearly enough.
I guess my journey started long before I ever knew I was going to fly halfway around the world to live in Kenya. Social justice has always been a core value of mine that defines me as a person. Growing up with a grandfather who survived the Holocaust made me start thinking about human rights from a very young age. Social justice, to me, is what we owe the world. Whether you are Jewish or not, it is we as humans who have to come together to make tomorrow better.
We commend Julia for acting on her Jewish values and making a difference in Kenya. With the combined efforts of passionate people around the globe, whether motivated by religion or an innate sense of human rights, poverty and famine can be ameliorated in the Horn of Africa.