In the northwest corner of Tanzania sits the country’s sole refugee camp. Camp Nyarugusu houses nearly 68,000 refugees, mostly from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many have been at the camp since 1996 when the civil war forced them out of their homes. Others are escaping more recent violence, such as the chopping off of albinos’ limbs and grinding the bones into “magic dust” – a practice that became “witchdoctor-approved” for good luck in 2009. Needless to say, many of these men, women and children fled from terrifying violence and came to Tanzania seeking safety. Though the people at Camp Nyarugusu are safe from violence, they are plagued with yet another deadly killer: malaria. Last year alone, in a camp of 68,000 people, there were 62,000 cases of malaria. One woman in the camp has had malaria twenty times and her baby has had the illness three times in the last three months. And before ESPN columnist Rick Reilly’s and NBA superstar Stephen Curry’s trip to Nyarugusu last month, there were no mosquito nets.
The camp desperately needs mosquito nets, and our partners over at the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets have determined that the camp needs 38,000 nets to adequately protect its residents. That’s why we at the Religious Action Center have decided to focus our efforts on this camp, in particular. All nets that our Movement raises will be sent to families in Nyarugusu so that these refugees who are fleeing violence don’t have to face another killer.
Stay tuned as we bring personal stories of families and success stories from the camp to you through RACblog throughout the year. Right now, you can check out Nothing But Nets’ Facebook album with pictures from their trip with Rick Reilly and Stephen Curry.
We’ve set a goal here at the RAC to raise 18,000 nets this year and to send 1,800 letters to Congress so our lawmakers know that this issue is a priority for Reform Jews. We must pursue healing, rodeph refuah, and though 18,000 nets is just under half of what is needed at Nyarugusu, we learn from our ancient Jewish scholars that to save just one life is as if we have saved the entire world.