Category Archives: humanitarian crisis

Cecil the Lion and Moral Outrage

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Last week, 675,000 people unleashed a torrent of moral outrage on Twitter when a dentist from Minneapolis illegally killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe. Within 24 hours, the story had gone global. Many were appalled at the way Cecil was lured off a game preserve and brutally killed.

A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Europe unlike anything since the end of the Second World War, but Cecil the Lion dominates the news as an overnight international sensation …

675,000 tweets. It was an amazing response.

Everyone has a stake in conserving our environment and protecting rare species. Both Jewish and Christian traditions command stewardship of the earth as an essential element of our humanity. The survival of the planet depends on us taking that mandate seriously.

But, in the last 15 months, more than two million people have been driven from their homes by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. More than five million need humanitarian assistance. As many as 700,000 children suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Winter is coming to Ukraine. Twitter has been almost silent.

A humanitarian catastrophe unfolds in Europe unlike anything since the end of the Second World War, but Cecil the Lion dominates the news as an overnight international sensation, and the moral outrage of millions falls on the head of the world’s most infamous dentist, Dr. Walter James Palmer.

In the meantime, scant outrage is directed at Vladimir Putin and his gang of kleptocrats who spent the last 15 years looting Russia and who now grab everything that isn’t nailed down in eastern Ukraine.

Some political leaders point to the modest sanctions leveled against Mr. Putin and his inner circle. But the EU will almost certainly relax those sanctions in the next year. The pressure from business leaders in Germany and France will force their leaders to cave.

That’s why Save Ukraine Now and the US-Ukraine Foundation are organizing a forum on Capitol Hill, September 24th and 25th. Sponsored jointly by the Senate Ukraine Caucus and the House Ukraine Caucus in cooperation with the Ukrainian Embassy, “The Neglected Crisis in Ukraine: The Risk of Western Failure in Political, Economic and Humanitarian Assistance,” will gather U.S. and Ukrainian leaders from government, religious and non-profit sectors to evaluate the impact of the current crisis in Ukraine and the needed responses. General (ret.) Wesley Clark, Chairman of the Board for Save Ukraine Now, will address the gathering on the first day as the keynote speaker.

We should all care about Cecil the Lion, but the human victims of wanton aggression are crying out for our assistance, and we can prevent their deaths.

For more information about the Washington Forum, please click here.

— Submitted by Dr. Gary Kellner

The Power of One

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One man, one container. The result? Thousands of people will receive much better medical care.

Benny Shkop set the pace in our Chicago Save Ukraine Now banquet by committing to fill a shipping container with hospital beds, mattresses, wheelchairs and other medical supplies for Ukraine at a cost of $100,000.

Benny exemplifies the “Power of One,” the ability of one person to make a dramatic difference.

A dynamic and energetic young entrepreneur, he has built a global business by selling refurbished medical supplies to hospitals in developing countries. A few years ago, he learned that some of America’s best hospitals replace equipment every four years instead of the industry-standard ten or twelve. Benny founded ReMed to furnish this medical equipment to hospitals unable to afford newer systems.

Leo Bard, our Executive Vice-President, and a key member of our Chicago team, heard about Benny’s business and approached him about shipping medical supplies to Ukraine. Benny eagerly committed to filling a container for just $10,000—a fraction of the value. After the Save Ukraine Now banquet in Chicago, he dropped that number to $3,000.

There is it—the Power of One.

One man, one container. The result? Thousands of people will receive much better medical care.

A few days later, I spoke about Benny’s commitment at a church in Meadville, Pennsylvania. A young couple decided they would give $3,000. With a trembling hand, the husband handed the pastor a check at the end of the service. They had never done anything like that before.

And there it is again—the Power of One.

Stories like this are happening every week in Save Ukraine Now as individuals discover the Power of One.

Two women, Ulana Kushner and Vera Andruskiw, caught the vision for organizing a city-wide effort in Detroit. They built an elite steering committee of 40 people from 20 organizations and held a regional prayer breakfast for religious leaders, a premier event with General Wesley Clark at the renowned Detroit Economic Club, a fundraising banquet and a strategic briefing. More than 1,000 people attended.

And there it is one more time—the Power of One, or, in this case, two.

But the story does not end there. James Fouts, the mayor of the City of Warren, Michigan, home to a substantial Ukrainian-American community, attended the banquet and was duly impressed. He declared a Save Ukraine Now Initiative to fill shipping containers and even directed the city Water Department to include a promotional flyer in the residential bills.

And that illustrates an interesting corollary about the Power of One: it multiplies.

And as it does so, Americans will catch a vision of what they can collectively accomplish. The Talmud says, “He who saves a life, saves the world entire.” That’s the Power of One.

Tipping Point

Every humanitarian crisis is unique, shaped by the culture, the resiliency of the people and the ability of the government to respond effectively. Man-made crises differ markedly from those caused by an act of nature.

Yet certain similarities repeatedly manifest themselves: the breakdown of civil order at the disaster scene, death and destruction. The very real human face of suffering, of helplessness, touches our hearts. And those of use who live well feel compelled to do something, anything, for the victims.

The onslaught of the crisis may start slowly at first – unless it is a titanic force of nature like a hurricane, an earthquake or a tsunami. But at a certain point, every humanitarian crisis reaches a tipping point, a fulcrum, when things will either get better or get very, very worse. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reached just such a tipping point.

But at a certain point, every humanitarian crisis reaches a tipping point, a fulcrum, when things will either get better or get very, very worse. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has reached just such a tipping point.

The statistics amplify the magnitude of the situation. Up to 1.2 million refugees have flooded into almost every city in the nation. Five million people require some form of humanitarian assistance, 1.7 million of them children. At least 6,090 people have been killed and 15,429 wounded from mid-April 2014 to April 2, 2015 (UNOCHA Situation Report).

To frame the situation, more than 10 percent of Ukrainians have been directly impacted by the conflict in the East. Their families, friends, churches and synagogues have responded heroically; but every day, they fall farther and farther behind. The people of Ukraine were going about their daily routines a year ago, working at their jobs, enjoying weekends with their families, celebrating birthdays and weddings.

To truly understand what has befallen them, consider the food delivery system in the United States. It relies on a complex set of interactions before we can go shopping at the supermarket. These interactions include growing, health inspections, trucking and price setting so everyone makes a healthy profit without overly burdening the end user, the consumers struggling to support their families.

What if the crises we experienced in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Sandy became a regular fact of life? What if our fellow citizens could not find food and water? What if lifesaving medicines were unavailable?

That is what has happened in eastern Ukraine, where there are entire regions with no open supermarkets, where half the hospitals have been closed, where 70 percent of the medical personnel have fled, where children have lived in bomb shelters for months.

How long would our democracy survive in the face of such terrible realities?

That’s why Ukraine Survival, a program to ship emergency supplies to Ukraine must succeed. That’s why we must stand with a country that seems far removed from our daily lives. Because they’re not really that far away after all.

The Silent Crisis

Rachel Carson wrote a groundbreaking book about the threat to public health posed by the pesticide DDT called The Silent Crisis. This potent moniker also fits the tragedy in Ukraine. The upheaval caused by Putin and his thugs in eastern Ukraine, described by some observers as a “frozen conflict,” is driving an exploding refugee crisis. Moreover, millions of Ukrainians are losing access to the basic necessities of survival, namely food and heat.

Three months ago, our sources estimated 100,000 displaced individuals within Ukraine, the UN now estimates the number to exceed 640,000—with 105,000 new refugees registered in one week alone. UNICEF estimates 1.7 million children are affected. And at least five million people now need humanitarian assistance, more than half of whom are elderly and most vulnerable to the cold.

UN staff report that people are going to die without immediate assistance.

Yet, this skyrocketing refugee crisis has hardly been mentioned in the American media who are fixated on the Russian “incursion” and the geopolitical issues. The “silent crisis” of hundreds of thousands of people without adequate food or water has been ignored and probably will be until people die by the thousands. The silence of the media is becoming a guilty silence.

Save Ukraine Now has played a prominent role in alerting government leaders and media to the silent crisis. We issued an emergency plea during the Christmas season and are making every effort to provide desperately needed relief. Our medical team is supplying medicines and related necessities; we are flooding refugee centers with food and heating supplies; and we provided Christmas gifts to more than 1,000 orphans and refugee children.

But we, and other organizations, are getting overwhelmed by a tsunami of suffering, and the mushrooming cloud of death is frightening even the most seasoned relief organizations. We must find a way to break through this silent crisis and get the public involved – just like we did after the earthquake in Haiti – if we hope to alleviate this situation. America’s generosity and compassion are legendary, but we must become fully aware of a tragedy in order to mitigate it.