NJPIRG, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, released a statement on September 4, 2011 about the famine in the East African region of the world. The Media Director for NJPIRG, Joseph Gentile, offered his explanation about NJPIRG’s thoughts and actions on the matter.
NJPIRG decided to write the press release mainly to “raise awareness of the suffering of our fellow man,” says Gentile, “although we’re aware people have time constraints, every little bit helps, but only if everyone puts in a little bit. This issue is also one that doesn’t come up a lot, and people should be informed about the world so they can make more informed decisions.”
According to the press release, the regions of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are suffering severe food shortages brought on by extreme droughts region wide; the most devastating famine in decades. Limited press coverage has resulted in low numbers of both donations and volunteers in relief efforts. Over 10 million people have been forced to relocate because of this famine. Because of the instability of these countries, they are not prepared to handle the prospect of nationwide famine.
The United Nations estimates that half the population ofSomalia, the country worst affected by the famine, is in need of aid. Since July 2011, they have declared several parts of the nation as famine zones. In order to put a stop to the crisis, about $300 million in donation funds will be needed over the course of the next two months.
The press release, according to Gentile, was meant to raise awareness about the East African crisis.
“If even one person has read it, I’ve done my job,” he explains.
He speculates that the lack of media coverage of the famine toAmerica’s current economic crisis. “Americais so focused on its economy, which is understandable, but we can’t just ignore the suffering of millions. Other nations’ suffering is eventually going to affect our nation to some extent. TheU.S.is so concerned about self-preservation that we’ve unintentionally blinded ourselves.”
He explains that Rutgers students are unaware of the problems inEast Africa. “The general student population is aware on a small level of the crisis isEast Africa, but are either too busy to help or unconcerned. We need to look beyond our own needs to help others, if only for a moment,” says Gentile.
He encourages student participation and says that volunteering even a little time at NJPIRG can make a difference.
“We’re always looking for volunteers; right now, we only have about ten,” says Gentile. The organization holds many campaigns working with organizations like UNICEF and the National Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness, where they accept donations of food, clothing, and money.
“Another thing anyone can do to is to raise awareness. Mention the crisis in a conversation; spread the word. Word of mouth is the most important and fastest way information is spread.”
Gentile also stressed the importance of different options and levels of involvement concerning volunteering, especially the $11.25 that shows up on everyRutgers’ student’s term bill.
“I want students to be aware that they have the option of donating whatever and however much they want. Money helps, but its true value only comes from when you honestly want to donate it. Otherwise, the donation isn’t cast in a very positive light,” He explained.
Students who want to get involved in NJPIRG fight against famine can attend the next two meetings on Wednesday September 21 during free period in Armitage 123, or on Thursday, September 22 at 5PM in Armitage 121.