The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Due to a deadly combination of war and drought, almost 20 million people in four countries have been facing the possibility of devastating famines in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northern Nigeria. Famines are unusual, with specific metrics defining the threshold for an official famine to be declared. The last time a famine was declared was in 2011 in Somalia, an incident in which 260,000 people died. In that crisis, similarly to the one facing four the African and Middle Eastern nations today, drought led to poor harvests, which in turn drove up the costs of food. In the 2011 famine, militia violence from the terrorist group al-Shabaab prevented emergency relief from reaching the most desperate people. These stark photos illustrate the increasingly dire situation overtaking the Horn of Africa today.
In an effort to provide emergency food assistance in these at-risk areas, advocates pushed Members of Congress to include $1 billion in emergency funding in a recent budget bill that funded the government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. These efforts were successful, and this money was appropriated and signed by the President on May 5.
As Reform Jews, we are obligated to speak out in defense those whose lives are threatened by extreme poverty. In the Babylonian Talmud, we are instructed that “Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not do so is punished for the transgressions of the entire world,” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 54b). In response to this call, faith voices have come to play a particularly important role in working to eliminate global poverty. In fact, for every $1 of government spending on foreign aid, faith-based organizations raise $6. And at less than 1% of the federal budget, the U.S.’s spending on foreign aid, about $60 billion a year, is a smart investment in human potential and global security.