African student group relief plans move slow

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Low contributions continue to slow down the African Student Organization’s efforts to raise funds to provide relief for millions of Nigerien children and adults who are starving as a result of drought and destroyed crops, according to ASO group members.

To date, ASO has raised very little money for the hunger crisis. The only contributions members said they received have come from people within the organization, said Francis Appiah, ASO president.

“We haven’t raised much at all,” he said. “The plan was that with Africa Week, we would get help, but it didn’t happen. The promises haven’t come through.”

A severe drought and a high number of locusts destroyed crops throughout Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, leading to mass starvation across the country earlier this year and last year. The United Nations World Food Bank will continue its efforts to bring aid to the region, according to news reports, and some smaller organizations like ASO have tried to help as well.

“If something happened like that, it’s an emergency,” he said. “We try to pay attention and save people.”

According to Appiah, more than 10,000 children have died because of the hunger crisis.

Up to 192,000 children, five years old or younger, suffer or are affected by moderate or severe malnutrition in Niger, according to a 2005 Niger Flash Appeal report from the United Nations.

In March 2005, about 2.5 million out of 3.6 million people affected by the crisis in Niger were considered “extremely vulnerable and required much food assistance,” according to the same report. Other nations neighboring Niger have experienced similar food and hunger crises.

“You’re trying to help, not to add more death to it,” he said.

Appiah said the Anthropology Student Association is aware of the low contributions given to the ASO fundraiser, and that ASA group members said they would look into their budget and see if they could contribute to the hunger relief.

“Besides them, we haven’t got much response from anybody,” Appiah said.

ASO Vice President Marvin Boateng expressed similar concerns.

“I’m concerned in general about humanity,” he said. “(Niger) needs our help.”

According to Boateng, the group attempted to create awareness in the CSUN community of the hunger crisis during the Nov. 17 International Open Market event held on the Matador Bookstore Lawn as part of International Education Week.

The group was also trying to collect funds, but according to Boateng the ASO was not able to raise any money.

ASO’s initial semester fundraising efforts were first slated to go toward helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Appiah said.

Appiah said he has played drums for audience members in various communities in recent months in an effort to raise money to help his group’s efforts.

Appiah also said the situation in Niger is not well known because Africa is deemed such a distant continent by many Americans.

“People look at Africa like (it’s) far away,” he said, adding that his organization previously discussed ways to educate the CSUN community about the continent.

Cassandra Harris, senior communications disorders and sciences major and member of ASO, said she is talking to co-workers at her job about the fundraising efforts.

Harris said she believed the fundraising process is not only important globally, but important to her personally as well.

“My brother and sister are suffering,” she said. “They have nothing and (in the United States, people) have more.”

Harris said an individual does not have to come from Niger to understand the crisis, while acknowledging that everyone must do their part and show love toward the victims of the hunger crisis.

Appiah said Africans believe in a family system of living in which everyone should have enough to eat.

“We try as an organization to help people in Niger, to let them know that while they are suffering, we are also suffering,” he said in reference to that family system.

Harris said the organization would speak to Nigerien ambassadors in the United States and present the money they collect from their fundraising efforts in March 2006.

Boateng said the organization would continue to raise funds next semester.

“It’s still a work in progress,” he said.

Appiah said ASO would try to take the cause to the African community and see if the group can get support from them. African churches, Boateng said, are also among places the organization will try to get some donations.

Boateng reiterated the importance of more CSUN involvement in their efforts.

“The whole CSUN community should be involved,” Boateng said.

John Barundia can be reached at jcb44123 @csun.edu.