The best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is to follow in the footsteps of the hit Irish show “Riverdance.”
One of the first steps “Riverdance” took after its initial launch in 1994 was to help others. The video “Riverdance for Rwanda” was released in August of that year to help feed the starving war victims and refugees of Rwanda. Riverdance performers waived all their rights to the video so the entire proceeds would go to Rwanda and five Irish relief organizations operating there. On the back of the video box appeared the quote, “There is a special resonance to this video where all of the talents that combined to make Reverence such a vibrant presentation of Irish cultural life past and present should now give us the opportunity through the enjoyment of their achievement, to reach out to support the people of Rwanda.”
The “Riverdance” team was having great success and decided it needed to share that joy with those far less fortunate and in great need. Responding to those suffering in famine hits home for the Irish, having gone through that experience as a nation. Ireland suffered through famines during the 19th century, during which millions starved to death or were displaced. In fact, that aspect of Irish history is told in the “Riverdance” story. One segment of “Riverdance” is “The Countess Cathleen,” a legendary woman who fought the evil of famine as told in a story by William Butler Yeats.
The Washington Post reported “Riverdance for Rwanda” sold nearly 200,000 copies to help feed the hungry. That is a good example for all of us to appreciate what we have and to turn our attention to helping others. For, on this St. Patrick’s Day, there are so many humanitarian emergencies taking place, many of which are underfunded.
Somalia stands on the brink of famine because of a severe drought, but there has not been enough donations to feed the hungry. The D.R. Congo has 26 million people needing food aid, and it’s getting much worse because of violence and displacement. Again, there is a shortage of funds for relief.
In Burkina Faso, the U.N. World Food Program is warning it needs U.S. $505 million to provide “lifesaving and life changing assistance” to over 3 million people this year. WFP says “An estimated 19,800 people across Burkina Faso’s Sahel Region will experience catastrophic levels of hunger” unless action is taken.
Rohingya refugees living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, are now facing ration cuts because of lack of funding. “With each ration cut, malnutrition will certainly rise. With each ration cut, families will increasingly resort to dangerous strategies to cope. Sadly, women, adolescent girls and children will be the worst affected. We must do everything possible to keep the vital humanitarian assistance they depend on intact,” said Domenico Scalpelli, the WFP director in Bangladesh.
Yemen, which has been devastated by a civil war, saw a very low number of donations at a recent pledging conference. The Save the Children’s Country Director for Yemen, Rama Hansraj, said: “The failure of world leaders to provide necessary funding for children’s protection, food, shelter and other lifesaving services is unacceptable.”
Every one of us can do something to help those in need by supporting relief agencies like WFP, Save the Children, CARE, Concern Worldwide, Catholic Relief Services, Mary’s Meals, UNICEF and Edesia, through fundraising and advocacy. You can host an event in your community, school or organizations on St. Patrick’s Day or during Irish history month. You can share the spirit of the Irish in fighting hunger, so no one ever suffers through famine again.
William Lambers partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”
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