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We Can't Give in to Compassion Fatigue

It was the best kind of homecoming: My former roommate who moved to Nairobi, Kenya, last year was visiting DC for a week, and she saved one evening for a long dinner with me. We caught up on all the details—life, relationships, and future plans. And then, once the plates were cleared and the laughs had ceased, I asked about work. As a regional coordinator for aid in east Africa, she has twice visited Dadaab—the largest refugee camp in Kenya. Leaning in, I asked, “What is it like?”

What she described was not very different from what I’d seen or read in the news, and yet, to hear it from a friend who had seen it with her own eyes was a sobering experience.

It’s difficult to fathom widespread famine. In fact, “compassion fatigue” is a commonly used phrase in nonprofit organizations—we are sensitive to the fact that constituents tire of the constant tug of need around the world. (Unfortunately, national leaders feel the same way.) But listening to my friend’s stories about refugees just barely making it to the camp only to wait for hours in long registration lines, and women risking attack from thugs in the desert to collect firewood for their families, solidified the news for me: This is really happening.

I hope you will join me in making a concerted effort to read these stories; to educate yourself on the complex causes of the famine; to look at the photos and see everyone as a person of dignity; to ask our members of Congress to take action on the Horn of Africa now; to protect global food security programs during the budget negotiations; and, most importantly, to pray for compassion and swift action for our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa.

 

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