September 28, 2007

Groups Address African Flooding

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With severe flooding in sub-Saharan Africa leaving hundreds of thousands of people in need of food and shelter, Cornell students have responded by spreading awareness and raising donations for victims of the disaster.
The recent floods have produced some devastating numbers. “About 1.5 million people in 18 countries have been lost their homes and livelihoods, while almost 300 people have been killed,” Al Jazeera reported.
Despite the drastic circumstances, the United States’ involvement has been criticized as apathetic according to some Cornell students. Kobbina Awuah ’09, a member of the Coalition of Pan-African Scholars, said, “The flooding has affected an area larger than the United States; yet, the main actions of our government have been [to send] $150,000 to the region.”
Although Awuah believes that the United States government has lacked involvement, he is more disappointed in the lack of concern on the Cornell campus.
“Cornell students are supposed to be internationally and politically aware. Even though the media has not been publicizing the floods enough, this is no excuse,” Awuah said. “It’s the biggest flood in Africa, and it hasn’t gotten any awareness.”
Terry Moynihan ’11, who contributed money to victims of the flooding, said he believes that the overall lack of media coverage stems from broader apathy in the United States towards Africa. “There would be more coverage if it weren’t about Africa,” Moynihan said. “If it was about a well-off majority white country, or even Asia, it would have better coverage. There is a lot of apathy in the United States towards Africa since a lot of Americans see problems in Africa on a continual basis and don’t think they can do anything about it.”
As the Coalition of Pan-African Scholars sends money for relief in sub-Saharan Africa, members wish there were more similar involvement within the Cornell community.
“Our two main goals are to raise funds for the victims and help with awareness in Cornell University,” Awuah said. “We are working with ministers from Ghana on the ground and giving them supplies needed to help with the aftermath problems of the floods, such as famine and disease. As for awareness, we have found that people are willing to help once they know. The problem, however, is many people are simply unaware of the crisis that is going on.”
The Coalition of Pan-African Scholars has not been working alone. Awuah is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, which has been actively sending aid to Africa.
Paul Muñoz ’09, co-chair of corporate relations for ASME, said, “ASME is committed to community service projects throughout Ithaca. We try to spread awareness of science and technology. When Kobbina Awuah brought the floods to my attention, we were happy to get involved.”
Whether it is from lack of media attention or apathy towards international affairs, Muñoz is not sure that many know the gravity of the situation.
“I mean, over 22 sub-Saharan countries have been affected, from Kenya to Senegal,” Muñoz said. “The floods started two or three weeks ago, but they still haven’t stopped. It is still raining.”
Muñoz, however, is excited by Cornell students’ support. So far, he said, it has been quite a success.
“The response on campus has been great. We have raised $1,000 in only the past two days, and this is just from tabling in Ho Plaza and doing a couple raffles,” Muñoz said.
Although funding will help relieve the problems in the region, Muñoz explained that awareness is of primary importance since the more people know, the more support Africa will receive.
“Getting people aware and concerned is our main goal,” Muñoz said. “Many people are willing to help, [but] they just don’t even know about the situation. It is our job to inform Cornell students of the gravity of the situation and gain their support to aid in relief of the disaster.”