After the Miami Heat’s fierce Eastern Conference Semifinals battle with the Toronto Raptors, Heat forward, Luol Deng is fighting another cause off of the court.
Deng, who was born in South Sudan, has spent time every off-season giving back to the country engulfed in a civil war.
In previous years, Deng has returned to his hometown of Wau, South Sudan to build basketball courts, host basketball camps and even build a school. Later this off-season Deng will return to South Sudan this NBA off-season to help build another school, but right now, he is lending a hand to his home country from the United States.
Currently, Deng is focused on helping South Sudan avoid a severe food crisis. South Sudan’s civil war has affected an estimated 9.6 million residents. With large numbers of South Sudanese people displaced and without shelter, food crises are always a concern for residents. Yet, unique circumstances this year may exacerbate the problem.
According to UNICEF, South Sudanese people will face a longer hunger period in 2016 than in previous years, due in part to the hunger period beginning closer to the post-harvest season. As the dry season approaches and the flood waters recede, the problem will grow as citizens won’t be able to access the fish and water lilies they typically eat. Beyond that, over the last year, rebels have raided large numbers of livestock, leaving South Sudanese people without essential animal products to consume.
Altogether, in 2016 it is estimated that 7.5 million South Sudanese people will suffer from food insecurity, with over 235,000 children suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.
“It’s a different life. There are people seeking help,” Deng told RULING SPORTS when asked about the crisis impacting South Sudan.
As concern over the food crisis grows, Deng has partnered with UNICEF to bring awareness to and fundraise for the issue.
“The main thing, is we want to get awareness out that this could be a very difficult year in terms of hunger for people of South Sudan, because of the civil war,” Deng said.
Deng wants to raise $100,000 by May 31 to provide UNICEF with the financial resources necessary to provide emergency food response to South Sudan this summer. Currently, nearly $20,000 has been raised and Deng will match the first $50,000 donated.
While Deng’s fundraising goals are sizable, he and UNICEF note that even a small amount of money goes a long way to helping the South Sudanese people avoid hunger. According to UNICEF, $10 provides 21 packets of ready-to-use therapeutic food which can bring a child back to a healthy weight within six to eight weeks.
“We want to let people know that even one dollar or fifty cents helps and makes a difference in the long wrong. A lot of times people get the wrong idea thinking they have to put in a large amount. We aren’t asking for that. We are just asking for people to do whatever they can, if they’re interested,” Deng explained.
To support the South Sudanese people by providing emergency food relief as they approach a hunger crisis, you can visit Deng’s fundraising page.