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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘IsraAID’

KFC Leaving Syria as Starving Syrians Face Critical Winter

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Last month, Kentucky Fried Chicken was forced to shut down its Damascus franchise due to operational difficulties amid the country’s crippling food shortage and bloody civil war. According to a recent report in the Atlantic, four million Syrians are currently facing food insecurity, with more than half of the Syrian population living in poverty.

KFC had to leave the country because it could no longer acquire the necessary amount of chickens for its fast food meals. Poultry production has decreased by half since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. When chickens from local Syrian farms could no longer be produced, the American franchise decided to import chickens from Lebanon. But violence on the roads and sky-rocketing diesel prices made importing impossible.

KFC first opened in Damascus in 2006, Syria’s first American restaurant, whose fried chicken is a popular commodity across the Middle East. Operated by the Americana Group, there are 450 KFC restaurants in 12 countries across the Middle East region, including Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. The United Arab Emirates opened its 100th KFC branch this year.

But Syrians need much more than fried chicken and fast food. With the impending winter, many Syrians will not survive because they are simply starving – they are cut off from food supplies, electricity, water and any aid after being under siege for months. The situation is especially hard on children. Der Spiegal reported that while three-year-old Ibrahim Khalil survived the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack on August 21, the toddler died ten days later of hunger. And Dr. Aminn Abu Ammar of Muadhamiya stated that many children in his Damascus suburb are already so weak that “even an ordinary cold could kill them.”

In addition, as the Syrian economy dramatically deteriorates, a “violence-based economy” has emerged, according to Rabi Nasser of the Syrian Center for Political Research in Damascus in a Deutsche Welle report. Smugglers, racketeers, and criminals are reportedly creating their own monopoly for selling food and medicine and encroaching on legitimate businesses in the war-torn country.

According to a recent UN-commissioned report, 115,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions of others have been displaced in the past two years. About 4.4 million Syrians are now living in extreme poverty with half of the country unemployed.

Syria’s neighboring country, Israel, has been quietly aiding refugees, both sending supplies and providing Israeli hospital care and medical treatment to wounded Syrians – children and adults – caught in the crossfire.

The Israeli non-profit, IsraAid, has sent approximately $100,000 worth of supplies throughout the past year, and other Israeli groups comprised of private citizens like Hand in Hand, have also collected and sent clothing and supplies to Syrian refugees located in Jordan. IsraAid recently sent to Syrian refugees in Jordan sacks of dry goods filled with lentils, powdered milk, pasta, and tea.

The question remains whether the international community will take a loud and effective stand on the Syrian situation or will it allow Assad to continue to exert brutality and violence against his people, while the rest of the Middle East enjoys its KFC.

Israeli Activist Promotes Women’s Rights in South Sudan

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Ophelie Namiech, South Sudan country director of the Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID, is working in South Sudan to promote gender equality, women’s rights and helping local activists address gender-based violence.

Ophelie Namiech, a former French national, has made Aliyah to Israel and is presently serving as the South Sudan country director for IsraAID.  The humanitarian organization provides emergency relief and development assistance to different countries across the globe. In South Sudan, IsraAID is involved in development assistance for the emerging nation. 

“I made Aliyah in order to help build Israel’s future”

Namiech’s ultimate professional goal was to build a career that combined her love for the State of Israel with assisting the South Sudanese people. “I made Aliyah in order to build Israel’s future. I wanted to make a difference. I felt I needed to be part of Israel on the inside,” she stated. “It is such a pride to say that I am Israeli. It’s a reason to make Aliyah. Israel was founded based on humanitarian values.” She believes that by working to build relations between Israel and South Sudan and by accompanying the new state in in its efforts to build strong economic and social foundations, she is strengthening the role of Israel in international development and humanitarian action (Tikkun Olam). According to her, Israel has the opportunity – and the duty – to assist other friendly nations that struggled for their independence – like South Sudan – to build themselves.

Gender Issues in South Sudan

Presently, South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, has a humanitarian crisis in the border regions of the country as well as an internal conflict. According to Namiech, “South Sudan was fifty years in war. […] Sexual violence was used as a weapon of war, like is common in East Africa. It was not only used as weapon of war but it is also traumatized the nation.” She continued, “There are not studies on this, but at least two thirds of the women have faced gender based violence, rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, etc.” Namiech claimed that the international community focused almost exclusively on helping out the border regions, and did not have the capital city Juba as a priority.

Nevertheless, “Juba faced rapid urbanization with the massive absorption of refugees, displaced people, and migrants seeking better opportunities. All of this created social and economic pressure on Juba as well as social challenges.” She continued, “You have five star hotels for internationals and then a slum area where women and children are being raped.” She personally witnessed a child getting raped by five men and claimed that such things happen on a daily basis. “No one was working in Juba, because they were focusing elsewhere,” she asserted. Yet, after IsraAID began assisting local activists in South Sudan promoting gender equality, other NGOs joined in.

Namiech Working to Make a Difference

IsraAID  seeks to train social workers, community leaders and teachers to be able to address gender-based violence on their own. Namiech claims that merely providing humanitarian assistance is not long-term thinking, since soon after, once the international activists depart, the aid also goes with them and without being given the tools to deal with the issue on their own, the South Sudanese won’t be able to effect change on their own. This is why Namiech is so motivated to provide local South Sudanese activists with the tools that they need in order to make a difference.

IsraAID has successfully developed a positive working relationship between social workers, teachers, and the police. “As a result of this, there were joint programs. They are doing joint awareness sessions in schools to raise awareness on children’s and women’s rights,” Namiech asserted. Yet in addition to assisting with collaboration between various local South Sudanese actors, Namiech has worked with IsraAID to bring the same Israelis who built the first women’s shelters in Israel to South Sudan, to train the South Sudanese how to do it. They also bring experienced Israeli therapists to train South Sudanese therapists how to treat trauma victims.

IsraAID Brings Relief to Victims of Oklahoma Tornado

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Galit Cohen of IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian organization working all over the world, speaks to United With Israel about IsraAid’s relief efforts in Oklahoma to provide assistance and aid to victims of the recent tornado.

United With Israel recently interviewed Galit Cohen. Galit Cohen is a staff member of IsraAID, an Israeli humanitarian organization, that is presently working on the ground in Moore, Oklahoma, helping American tornado victims by providing disaster relief and counseling. Although IsraAID was also active in the Oklahoman towns of Bethel and Little X, IsraAID decided to focus on Moore because it was hit the worst. IsraAID is the only international humanitarian organization providing disaster relief assistance to Oklahoma at this time.

Presently, the situation is quite dire in the areas where IsraAID is operating. According to Cohen, “It’s extremely bad. It’s shocking. You have cars where you can’t see that it was a car until you see the tires.” She described a trailer park where only 5 out of the 30 trailers survived and how homes were transformed overnight into piles of wood and bricks. Cohen claims that the devastation was so bad that it will take years to fix it. The situation is particularly bad for communities in Oklahoma that lacked insurance to cover the cost of damages.

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Cohen told United With Israel that every day, IsraAID is given a new assignment and they go wherever the victims are to help them salvage and rebuild their lives. Once they cleared a park that was full of fallen wood. Most of the time, they help families clear the debris from their homes and their yards, and to rescue whatever small items that they can, before the bulldozers come in to tear down the wreckage. Cohen claimed that in most instances, there was not much left for them to rescue because of the damage incurred by the tornado, yet at times, some families are lucky enough to salvage some things. For example, one woman just wanted to be able to save her sons ring from his football team and with the help of IsraAID, she was able to do so.

In addition, IsraAID has been providing counseling to the local population in tornado affected areas in Oklahoma, who were traumatized in the wake of the natural disaster. According to Cohen, “We had a specialist in trauma management and counseling and she worked in Little X with the Red Cross and with the victims of the tornado and tried to calm them down. She worked with a woman who lost all her clothes except one outfit and all she wanted was a plastic bag for what was left of her house. A counselor helped her. This is the level of devastation.”

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The worst sin to our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that is the essence of inhumanity!” This is why Israel has helped to promote women’s rights and combat gender-based violence in South Sudan, assisted Haiti with medical care and agriculture, and worked to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Helping others is one of the core values of the Jewish people. IsraAid’s mission is to “support and empower the efforts of local communities affected by war, natural disaster, acute poverty and massive displacement, to move from emergency situations to sustainable living.”

The local population in Oklahoma has received IsraAID very warmly. According to Cohen, “We inspire people by our existence here. There is eternal gratitude. We had a group of people from the Christian community” who “said that our presence inspired them to keep up their work.” One woman whom Cohen encountered in Oklahoma was very impressed that people would come from the other end of the world just to help out. Cohen claims that it was not just her, for members of Oklahoma society, whether they are waiters, working in McDonalds, or are members of the Jewish or Christian community are “moved by our presence here.” According to Cohen, “The entire community from Oklahoma gave us a group hug.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israaid-brings-relief-to-victims-of-oklahoma-tornado/2013/06/05/

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