Susan Richards-Benson is a journalist who has been living and working in Egypt for the past five years. An avid animal lover, Susan lives with one rescue dog, and has actively campaigned for the rights of animals in Egypt. She has been volunteering with ESMA since 2010.
Headlines around the world have tracked the recent upheaval in many parts of the Middle East. What started in Tunisia spread like wildfire; demonstrations and protests have crippled many countries in the region.
When demonstrations and clashes erupted in Egypt, chaos and disorder ensued. Looting, theft, violence marred the country, effectively putting an end to the tourism industry, damaging an already fragile economy, and pushing many expatriates to evacuate the country.
When faced with the decision of leaving or staying in the country at potential risk to their own safety, many expats were forced to evacuate, leaving behind their homes and, sometimes, their family pets. Dogs and cats were abandoned on the streets or euthanized as worried owners struggled with the burden of what to do next. Cairo is notorious for the numbers of stray cats and dogs that run the streets, but these animals stood out. Healthier and evidently well-fed, volunteers at the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) were seeing many cats and dogs that had been abandoned.
ESMA is a non-profit animal rescue shelter based in the heart of Egypt, the capital city Cairo. It was founded by a few dedicated Egyptians and expatriates in response to mass shootings of dogs and cats in 2007 and has been fighting for the rights of animals in Egypt ever since.
These three weeks of unrest had a devastating impact on organizations, such as ESMA, which is in urgent need of help to provide food and shelter to an increasing number of stray cats and dogs. In the beginning of this year, ESMA’s shelter provided refuge for more than 600 cats and dogs. Run entirely on donations and volunteers, the rescue society relies on the generosity of others. This need today is greater than it has ever been.
During the period of unrest, ESMA volunteers picked up more than 26 abandoned cats and dogs left in the streets to fend for themselves. As the country works toward rebuilding its future, the future of these animals remains uncertain. To this day, nobody has stepped forward to claim the animals taken in by the rescue shelter, and ESMA struggles with the burden of feeding more than 600 cats and dogs on a daily basis.
“We are continually struggling to locate/buy food, medicines, pay the rent and the workers’ salaries, and even find detergents and disinfectants,” says Susie Nasser, a founding member of ESMA. “We are only able to offer our animals one meal, instead of the usual two meals per day.”
Animal lovers worldwide have banded together to help ESMA during their times of dire need. Donations from pet owners throughout the world have helped in keeping the rescue shelter afloat, but the light at the end of the tunnel is still far away. ESMA is sending out a plea for help from every dog, cat or animal owner throughout the world. Even a small donation can help to feed an animal for a few days.
For more information or to find out how you can help, please visit ESMA’s website at www.esmaegypt.org. In addition to general donations, ESMA offers sponsorships for specific animals. When you sponsor an animal, you will receive pictures of your furry friend and updates as they increase in strength and health.
From all of us at ESMA—both two-legged and four-legged—thank you for your consideration. We hope to welcome you all back to a better and brighter Egypt!