Eugene Cho

dear world: please wake up!

Numerous sources have stated that over 12 13 million people are being impacted by the worst drought & famine in the region of the Horn of Africa in 60 years. Most tragically the number of people on the very brink of death has soared to 750,000 (read ODW’s latest update & Nick Kristof’s update in the NY Times).

While it’s clear that the situation is complex (isn’t it always?) with political overtones and the Muslim militia called Shababs unwilling to let aid enter into regions of Somalia where people are dying, we are left with an epic humanitarian crisis impacting 13 million people.

12 13 million people.

How do you wrap your head around such a number?


You begin with one.

The World Food Programme, for example, has shared that they can provide a nutritious meal for one person for .17…

as in seventeen cents.

These statistics are overwhelming but while we may not be able to remedy, fix, or respond to the entire situation, we must respond. I’m often reminded of Mother Teresa’s wisdom and quote:

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

Over the years, I’ve grown very uncomfortable (and at times, angry) at what I consider to be borderline exploitation of images (and people) used by non-profit organizations to solicit donations. It’s not that I don’t understand the realities of suffering and extreme poverty because I do know. I’ve seen them many times with my own eyes. I have held children in my arms.

It’s just that they’re the only images shown or displayed…

It strips away a sense of human dignity.

And so, it’s with reticence that I show the picture above taken by Tyler Hicks of the NY Times from the Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Is it to invite donations? In part.

But more importantly, it’s to tell people:

Dear World: Please wake up!

This and other “worse” images are real and are from real events happening to real people right now.

I get it. We’re all exhausted. We’re all concerned about the economy, the budget, issues in our own backyard, our personal finances, our churches, etc. Heck, we all did our part in Haiti and Japan. We all have other commitments and causes. We belong to “other tribes” that do work in “other” parts of the world.

I get it. I really do. You’re tired. We’re all fatigued. I’m right there with you.

But don’t mistake donor fatigue with compassion fatigue.

Never stop caring. You can’t wrap your head around suffering without your heart. We still need to respond to this epic humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa that Oxfam is predicting may grow to impact 15 million people.

Please help.

Support  your ‘trusted’ or “favorite” organizations or effective organizations (via ONE) already on the ground. There are many out there. For those that are looking for partner, here’s four ways you can partner with One Day’s Wages. As always, 100% of your donations (minus credit card fees) will go directly to people in need. You have my word.

1. Lend your voice. Join our partners at ONE and sign the petition to call on governments and its leaders to save millions of lives in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere:

Dear World Leaders,Please urgently provide the full funding that the UN has identified as necessary to help people in the Horn of Africa, and please keep your promises to deliver the long term solutions which could prevent crises like this happening again. (sign your name)

2. Give whatever you feel compelled to give. Perhaps – one day’s wages (0.4% of your annual income) or $17 (equivalent to 100 meals), or $170 (1000 meals) according to World Food Programme’s breakdown.

3. If you have a birthday coming up in the next few months, create a birthday campaign for the Horn of Africa.

4. Mobilize. Start a group campaign for your school, company, church, etc. It’s easy. Here’s an example of a church that started a group campaign.

photo: Tyler Hicks, NY Times. photo from Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia.

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20 Responses

  1. Thank you again for being a vital advocate for the least of these…..your story and passion has been an incredible inspiration to our family.
    We, as a family are setting aside our “Little” one cent per meal per day..comes to .34 cents per day…feeding 2 people. Thanks Eugene and One Days wages.

  2. Luke says:

    This is exactly how I’ve been feeling. Please World, Wake Up!! Thank you for this post. I have felt this way for awhile now. These issues seem to be ignored or at least on the back burner of problems, priorities are elsewhere. The numbers are astounding and impossible to wrap you mind around. But I like what Mother Teresa said, “if you can’t feed 100 at least feed 1”. And if the world won’t wake up, Dear Church, Please Wake Up! We are held to a hiring standard because God calls up to care for the poor and destitute.
    Thanks again Eugene, I’ve been following One Day’s Wages since you spoke at Sanctuary Covenant in Minneapolis in 2010. Please keep challenging and educating.

  3. thomas says:

    i’m cynical. how much of my .17 cents pays for an aid agencies $80,000 land cruiser? and how much goes to the child? and if it does, how long will it be before we see this again – because of the incompetence of African governance. Afrika has enough arable land in many single countries to feed the ENTIRE continent, yet many of them are in disrepair. If Mugabe hadn’t run off the white farmers, Zimbabwe grain could be feeding these people… there’s enough water underneath Dadab Refugee camp in Northern Kenya to irrigate 100,000’s of thousands of hectares of land… yet Afrika remains content to live under dictators who are incompetent. It’s their fault. They continue to scream that they will do it their way, they don’t need the patronizing help of the west, and yet here they are again, in a distress, with their hands out…

    • Luke says:

      I agree thomas. there is no doubt that this world should be better. that africa should be able to pull itself out of this despair. that there is a vast amount of arable land and that there is incompetence or poor management as well as agencies that spend thousands of dollars on their own necessities. but this article is not about who is to blame. it is about the fact that there is a critical problem (a complete understatement), people are dying of thirst, they do not have the basics for life. this article is about continuing to be compassionate through utter devastation and even incompetent rulers. to love as Christ does and to care for others, so that Christ might have glory, because only God can bring about good through an evil situation.

    • Eugene Cho says:


      i’m as cynical as the next person. as luke shared, the post is in response to the urgent humanitarian need. having said that, i agree with you – we have to really push back and push hard and ask the hard and tough questions – about accountability, corruption, transparency and even the role of NGOs and the culture of dependence…

    • Lou says:

      Famine has always been a weapon of war. Whether it is some two-bit warlord making a bid for power or it is done by more highly organized groups – it is the same evil. yes, there are places in Africa that have been destroyed for food growing by political incompetence. Ethiopia was once a Bread Basket that exported food and remember the famines there? All I can do is give to an organization that I trust (World Vision is one) and pray that my small drop will join others and with God’s help, and our prayers, that it will get through. Thanks, Thomas for your remarks. The true problem IS people who don’t care who they kill just so they can have power.

  4. […] stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. This blog post originally appeared on Eugene Cho’s blog. Categories: Global Issues, Poverty Tags: Africa, budget, Children, churches, commitment, […]

  5. Scott says:

    Eugene, I really appreciate your article and the work that you do through ODW. I’m a pastor, and I’ve wanted to work with our congregation against donor/compassion fatigue. However, when it comes to Africa, and specifically the current crisis, all I’m hearing is that due to conflicts on the ground the aid isn’t able to reach those in need. I would appreciate your thoughts/direction.

    • Karen S. says:

      I’ve been hearing and reading the same things as Scott. Specifically, that extremist groups will not allow aid to reach the very vulnerable who are at present dying and near-death. I think the best that can be done now is to give to one of many groups who are stocking feeding stations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and then pray for the desperate who are trying to get there on foot.

      Come, Jesus.

    • Eugene Cho says:


      there’s information out there for research and guidance. for example, USAID (dr. rajiv shah, director) has visited several sites) and already forged some partnerships. other larger orgs are already on the ground as well.

      it is true that because of conflicts, not all areas are accessible. there are indeed some places of danger. having said that, there are enough orgs (already on the ground) that have a good pulse of how and where to engage in relief work. this is the reason why ODW (nor I) rarely spend the energy, time, or resources to travel oversees because we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

      hope this helps a bit.

  6. Janelle says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Very complex dynamics resulted in the current crisis in Somalia. If you have time, please read the article: There’s usually a complicated historical backdrop to things, and civilians tragically get caught in the crossfire.

    Food aid requires incredibly large amounts of funding and usually, governments are the only entities large enough to tackle it, albeit donations from individuals are helpful as well. The US is already the #1 donor to the crisis, and the UN is calling on other countries to step up more.

    However, you’re right in that large organization such as the UN and other INGOs can be wasteful and inefficient. Some organizations take more than 40% for administration, while in Burma, some UN projects take 80% (consultant and staff salaries included).

    The problem is that there are few options right now as it is not the easiest place to reach. If we have contact with local organizations in the region doing solid work to help the refugees for a fraction of the cost, that would be much better to fund. However, without these contacts, we can do nothing, or a little bit of something, realizing the complexity and the inherent inefficiencies of giving to INGOs, but knowing that at least some aid will reach the people despite it all.

    In the meantime, we can learn more about the region and advocate for policies back in the US that will help regions like this develop in the longterm.

  7. […] Eugene Cho also posts some thoughts and a call to action here. […]

  8. Matt says:

    Any opportunities/needs for people to go volunteer on the ground?
    I am ready able and willin.g

  9. Amanda says:

    I know you can also give through the World Vision website. WV is awesome, and they are one of the best organizations at getting the most money to the field. Also, they probably already have WV folks in this area working. I can’t verify that for sure though. It’s worth looking into.

  10. Dylan says:

    Thank you Eugene Cho for waking me up. Just donated.

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  13. […] de Eugene Cho, um pastor que tem crescido em minha admiração. Original em inglês: Dear World: Please Wake Up! por Eugene Cho) Share this:EmailFacebookPrint Tags amor, justiça, vida Categories […]

  14. […] (Texto de Eugene Cho, um pastor que tem crescido em minha admiração. Original em inglês: Dear World: Please Wake Up! por Eugene Cho) […]

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We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant.

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#jeremylin #jlin #linsanity #onedayswages Don't be held captive to either praise or criticism.

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The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

This is not a misprint.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
Sahara and her children all survived this journey. They survived because she persisted. 
In honor of Sahara...and so many other women who keep...keeping on. I have to remind myself of this every day...because I can forget every day:

Don't be lazy and make assumptions about people. Ask about their story. Then listen. Be humble. Be teachable. Be human. Be a good neighbor.

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