COVID-19 impacts African Jews
Families face starvation

COVID-19 impacts African Jews

An emergency assistance fund has been set up to help Jewish, Christian and Muslim families living in Uganda, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

WHEN Melbourne’s Zara Sarzin learned of the devastating impact of coronavirus lockdown on the Abayudaya – Jews of rural eastern Uganda – she knew that doing nothing was not an option.

“Since markets and most shops have been closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, people are no longer able to earn any income and are struggling to feed their families,” Sarzin told The AJN.

And as such, the Abayudaya community of Aparc, together with their Muslim and Christian neighbours with whom they peacefully live alongside, are facing starvation.

Zara Sarzin with Abayudayan children in 2006.

Sarzin first learned of the Abayudaya through her work with the World Bank almost 15 years ago. Since then, she has spent considerable time in their villages and has stayed in touch with community members.

“The already impoverished community relies on farming, fishing and small trade for their livelihoods. Many families buy goats, cows and hens in the village, which they sell at local markets. Some families have small kiosks in the village selling fish, while others are involved in door-to-door selling of second-hand clothes and sandals made of used tyres,” explained Sarzin.

But all of this activity has now been suspended, and consequently 76 families of Aparc – just over 150 adults and 300 children – are facing a desperate situation.

Sarzin relayed the words of a community leader who told her, “their survival is a blessing day after a day”, adding that one man attempted to take the lives of himself and his family as the pressure to find food mounted.

Said Sarzin, “It’s my understanding of Jewish teaching and tradition, that it’s incumbent on us to do whatever we can to help those in need,” and therefore she has established a crowdfunding appeal with all funds raised to go directly to the Aparc community in order for them to purchase food and other essential items to help get them get through this period.

Within three days, she has raised almost half the fundraising goal of $8000.

“It’s very encouraging early progress – but unless we reach our goal there will be families who will face certain starvation.”

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