Lutheran Disaster Response

Our response to disasters in the U.S. and around the world; look for sections of this blog related to specific disaster locations. Comments are welcomed and moderated.

Mozambique: Potential Rains Raise Risk of Continued Flooding

Posted on February 28, 2013 by Matthew Ley

Mozambique MapIn late January/early February heavy rains in region of southeastern Africa led to swelled rivers and heavy flooding in Mozambique. One of the hardest hit areas has been the Gaza Province in the south of the country, particularly along the Limpopo River. Over 140,000 of the nearly 170,000 people displaced country wide are from this province, as well as 38 of the 55 deaths. The situation is distressing since this is still early on in the rainy season for the region, which extends from January to April. As of this past week there have been reports of coming rains continue to affect the region, with fears of even further flooding.

The Lutheran World Federation, of which the ELCA is a member, has been responding. In fact, the LWF was the first humanitarian actor to reach some of the more affected areas, helping to assess the extent of damage and needs in affected communities. The response has also involved distributing mosquito nets, blankets, kitchen equipment, water purification and hygiene kits. The LWF is also looking into supplying seeds to affected farms, since 40% of crops have been destroyed by standing flood waters. There has also been a spike in cholera cases in affected areas.

To learn more about the situation and the LWF’s response, check out their blog: Mozambique Floods Feb 2013.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Healing Through Play

Posted on January 28, 2013 by Matthew Ley

Children playing after school at the Yusuf Batil camp in Maban, South Sudan. Credit: LWF/Melany Markham

Children playing after school at the Yusuf Batil camp in Maban, South Sudan.

The school day has finished and the children are running out the doors to find their favorite jump rope or ball or to join their favorite game. As the children laugh and pant, running around the field the sun finally sets and they head home for dinner, tired but happy.

A pretty common story for many of us as we remember back to our childhood days, as well it should be. These moments of play can have a major impact on the children who engage in them. This fact is not lost on the Lutheran World Federation who has taken seriously the need and impact of play as an act of healing for children in refugee camps, who may be escaping violence or disease. In places like Yusuf Batil camp in Maban, South Sudan the LWF is creating child-friendly spaces and supplying the resources to let kids be kids, in the midst of this major disruption in their lives.

It’s another great example of how the ELCA, through our membership in the LWF, is helping to support more holistic approaches to disaster response and humanitarian aid. In the United States we support a similar program called Camp Noah, to help children process the impacts of disaster upon their lives.

To learn more about how this particular ministry is playing out at the Yusuf Batil camp and why it is so important, read the LWF story Healing through Play.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Renewed Fighting Leads to Growing Refugee Population

Posted on November 21, 2012 by Matthew Ley

People displaced by fighting in Goma wait for assistance. Credit: Tarik Tinazay/DKH-ACT

In the Democratic Republic of Congo fighting has intensified, as the major city of Goma (pop. 700,000) was seized by rebel fighters. Caught in the middle are the hundreds of thousands of residents in the city. Lutheran church leaders around the globe are appealing to both sides for safe access for humanitarian aid agencies into the country and city. The situation has led thousands of residents to flee their homes to camps within the country as well as those across the borders in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

The ELCA, working through our membership in the Lutheran World Federation is helping to respond by providing water resources in the only settlement where recent Congolese refugees are arriving in Uganda. The Lutheran World Federation/Department of World Services programs in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are preparing to help people who have been displaced in the conflict. Helping supplement this work is staff from the Nairobi-based Regional Emergency Hub, set in place to help respond quickly and efficiently to disaster needs in East Africa. They will be assisting with assessments and support during the scaling-up of humanitarian efforts. The ELCA has been a major contributor to the establishment of these hubs.

In the coming days and weeks, a growing concern is the availability of clean water for affected populations. The worry is the potential for a serious outbreak of disease due to the unsanitary conditions. As things develop the ELCA and Lutheran World Federation will continue to focus on livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene related activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the refugee camps in neighboring Uganda.

As we enter into this season of Thanksgiving please raise a prayer for those affected by violence and potentially empty plates and cups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the many places around the world who do not have peace on this day.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Nigeria: Heavy Floods & Continued Fighting

Posted on November 19, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Map of flooding across West Africa Sahel Region. Credit: OCHA

Africa’s most heavily populated country has been spent much of 2012 responding to disasters. Earlier this year the country was affected by drought which spread throughout much of West Africa. Heavy rains in August/September have led to flooding throughout the country, with 24 of the 32 states severely affected and over 7 million people affected. In the midst of these natural disasters, the year has seen increased fighting between the militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian militaryy. This has led to fear among many, particularly Christians in the northern part of the country who have been targeted by the group.

The ELCA has been in communications with our companions in the region, the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, as to the best ways to respond. Please keep the people of Nigeria and our brothers and sisters of the Lutheran church there in prayer that Christ may bring them peace and security in the midst of destruction and fear.

To lean more about the affects of flooding on Nigeria and region you can check out these resources:

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate now.

South Sudan: Trial and Error and then…Smiles

Posted on November 19, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Children filling up the school grounds as they eagerly await the start of classes. Credit: LWF/South Sudan

This past year the Lutheran World Federation set up three Emergency Hubs in areas prone to disasters. Their intent was to preposition staffing and resources in areas of the world prone to disaster. One of these hubs was set up in Nairobi to help address the needs of East Africa. When violence began to break out in South Sudan in areas like Juba, Blue Nile and Jonglei the LWF was able to help respond quickly from this hub. Yet, as is the case with disasters there are always unforeseen circumstances and situations.

Below is a great story from Mairo Retief, the Emergency Hub Team Leader in East Africa, on his experiences in Maban as they worked to meet the growing needs of South Sudanese displaced by violence, especially unaccompanied minors. It shares the trials that come with working with the multiple moving parts of pulling together a disaster response and also the immense joy that comes along with seeing the difference made.

LWF in Maban has all been worth it!

You can also learn about the LWF-run schools in their report: It’s Crowded but Learning Has Started under Tents in Upper Nile.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

New Resources: Horn of Africa One-Year Later

Posted on September 21, 2012 by Matthew Ley

During the summer of last year major drought spread throughout the Horn of Africa, affecting countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. From the onset the ELCA has been helping in the response, providing cups of water and food to arriving refugees, working with communities to stave off illness and helping local populations leverage their knowledge to better prepare themselves for further disasters. This work has been made possible thanks to generous gifts from people like you.

As a way of marking this occassion and to help share about the good work we as this church are engaged in we share with you the following two Horn of Africa: One Year Later resources:

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond locally and globally in times of need. Donate Now

Mauritania: Phone Calls, Tents Raised, Families Find Refuge

Posted on August 14, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Refugees join LWF staff to set up tents for newcomers in Mbere camp in southeastern Mauritania. © LWF/Thomas Ekelund


It’s hot. It’s late. It’s not even a work day. But the phone rings and it’s time to move.

That’s the storyline in a recent Lutheran World Federation post about the situation at the LWF-managed refugee camp Mbere in southeastern Mauritania. The backdrop is the current crisis going on in the Sahel region of Western Africa where drought is threatening to turn into famine as daily temperatures top off at over 120-degrees Fahrenheit and conflict continues to rage in Mali. It’s so hot generators can’t be turned on.

The phone call is to inform the staff that 25 families from Mali are expected to arrive at the camp in 5 hours. So even though its the start of the weekend the staff rallies together to get the tents set up, working with volunteers within the camp who offer to help. It’s a bit like organized chaos but when the families finally get there, they have tents and water is quickly on its way.

Reading through it seems miraculous that all of the pieces fit together so well right when they need to, to imagine the people who dedicate themselves to this work and those who volunteer to help. It is nothing short than the movement of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the highs and lows of life. To be able to name this as an example of how our church engages the world on behalf of the Gospel is also a humbling joy.

It is God’s work being done with our hands as even from the desert floor we can engage in making life anew.

Read about this day in the life in the LWF article: Tents Mushroom in the Mauritanian Desert.

Also, consider giving to ELCA Disaster Response for West Africa Sahel so that we can continue to meet the needs of those who thirst, hunger and seek shelter.

Horn of Africa: LWF Update on Kenya and Djibouti

Posted on August 13, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The Lutheran World Federation Kenya/Djibouti program update from July 2012 gives a good update of what has been going on in the last year since the drought in the Horn of Africa started leading to famine and migrating people, especially in Somalia. Give it a read to get a good update on the situation.

Here is what stuck out to me:

  • The introducation gives a good reminder that each refugee is an individual who prior to disaster had a life and livelihood that would be considered normal in their context. The move to refugee was not an easy or expected one. It drove home for me that in each disaster their is both the objective circumstances of what happened as well as the very real and unique subjective story of each individual affected.
  • The background on what is going on in Kenya at large was a reminder that disasters do not happen in vaccuums. Life, both the positive and the negative, continues on and this continuation affects the response to the disaster. Also, it was a reminder that disasters don’t awknowledge the boundaries between peoples and countries that we create. So in our response there will always be a great need for communication, trust and accountability between varied partners.
  • The overview of Dadaab highlighted the importance of safety in the disaster response and how much effort can at times go into creating a place of peace and security in the midst of chaos. This work has been done in a very creative and effective way in Dadaab through their Community Peace and Secuirty Teams (sometimes labeled Community Peace Protection Teams or CPPT). These teams are made up of refugees living within the camps and are the first line of response to community violence and disputes. This buffering allows for issues to be handled mostly by people speaking the same language, coming from the same cultural background and current life experience. Seeing the need for basic security and peace before humanitarian aid can be properly delivered the ELCA, through its Disaster Response program strong supports this valuable work.

Overall the update gives a good overview of the situation and highlighting how the response of gracious donors the globe over has made a difference and why the need is still their for that response to continue.

Read the entire update: LWF Kenya/Djibouti Program Update.

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Kenya: Shelter From the Drought

Posted on July 3, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Refugees in Dadaab awaiting tent assignment. Credit: ACT/Barb Summers

The Lutheran World Federation program working in Kenya and Djibouti just released their annual report for 2011. A major part of their work in 2011 was around the drought which struck the Horn of Africa and the subsequent refugee crisis as the drought mixed with civil unrest in areas of Somalia. The following is one of the story reports giving a view of incoming refugees to the LWF-run camp of Dadaab located in eastern Kenya.


Shelter from the drought

Ahmed has a wife and four children, and that is all.

His family fled hunger in Somalia after the herd of cattle he owned were all gone and there was nothing to feed them. To make the trip, he sold his farm to his extended family and used the money to hire transport at the border to get them to the Dadaab refugee camps in eastern Kenya. Ahmed and his family set out from their home near Baidoa, one of the regions hardest-hit by the famine, but were stuck at the border for quite some time before they finally decided to sell their holdings and buy passage for the journey to Dadaab.

They have lived on the outskirts of the camps for a month and five days. In 2011, over 100,000 people poured into Dadaab, fleeing from drought and violence in Somalia. Some stay with relatives or other families from their clan, but many pitched their tents on the outskirts and stayed there. These tents sat on sandy orange dirt, a long way from water and other amenities.

Those working in the camps were stretched to their limits and beyond trying to meet the needs of this wave of humanity. But refugees and workers alike have had the pressure relieved as those camping on the outskirts were settled into planned camps.

All of the land in and around Dadaab belongs to the Kenyan government, who have generously donated massive tracts for the refugees to settle on. Since mid-August, [Lutheran World Federation] has been relocating refugees living on the outskirts to permanent plots within the official camp.

For people who have experienced so much change and dislocation, there is some resistance to moving again. Some of the refugees need convincing that their new homes will be better than the old. When it came time to decamp from the brushy outskirts of the Hagaderah camp to relocate to the new Kambioos settlement, some Somali refugees wasted no time at all.

Morning cooking fires still smoldered nearby as Abdullah, 50, prepared his donkey cart for the short journey. All around him, other members of this family rolled up mats, folded tarpulins and collected their belongings. Even small children carried their bags to the trucks and buses waiting to ferry them to Kambioos.

“We were fleeing from drought and fighting in Lower Juba,” says Abdullah, who travelled with his wife and their seven children. “I don’t know how many kilometers it was, but it was a very long journey. All of us made it here alive, but some people were very seriously ill when we arrived.”

Their group, which he estimates at one hundred or more, lost eight donkeys along the way. The rest of their livestock perished in the drought before they ever left Lower Juba.

After they arrived, they huddled together in makeshift dwellings outside of the Hagadera camp, where they endured weeks living a long walk away from latrines and a clean water source.

“Water is the main problem,” says one man. “Our family is eight people, and we only get twenty liters for the day.” That’s just 2 ½ liters per person per day; far less than the water used in a single flush of most Western toilets. “We are expecting that life there in Kambioos will be somehow gentler,” said Abdullah.

When the first members of the group arrive at Kambioos after the short bus trip they find sturdy tents erected on well-defined plots, and there is a greater sense of privacy. A large new water tank sits in the middle of the camp atop a pedestal of sand bags, and the camp is outfitted with latrines and other sanitary features.

Afra Mohammed and his family of three are among the first to arrive and he is immediately relieved that they have their own tent instead of sharing with another family.

“We are ready for anything because we are refugees who are looking for a place to settle,” he said. “But I am happy to have this plot.” He echoes the hope of many of the refugees who have fled to Kenya, which is one of stability and a life away from drought and civil war. Ahmed also sounds the same note as the other refugees, “I am not thinking about going back to Somalia. There’s no food to sustain us.”

World Refugee Day 2012

Posted on June 20, 2012 by meganbradfield

Poems of Hope from Kakuma, Rukiya Ibrahim, 19.

When The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was founded in 1947, its first service program provided assistance to refugees in Europe. Today the LWF continues to work with and for refugees and displaced persons, providing service and care for 1.2 million of the world’s refugees and displaced persons in Africa and Asia. In these camps, people from many nations live side by side seeking refuge from conflict and natural disaster.

The theme of the United Nations World Refugee Day 2012 is “one refugee without hope is one too many.”

A young Ethiopian woman, Rukiya Ibrahim, who lives in the LWF-managed Kakuma refugee camp, in northwestern Kenya, puts it powerfully: “when we do have hope that tomorrow will come and that tomorrow will come with a new change within itself, a new place to build you up, then that gives you hope to carry on.”

The ELCA, a member of the LWF, works as part of this 145 Lutheran member church communion which represents a total of 70 million members. This means that 70 Lutherans together take care of one refugee in this world.  As a member of the the LWF, the ELCA is dedicated to our vocation to uphold the rights of the poor and oppressed and promote dignity through our continuing work with refugees through ELCA Disaster Response and ELCA World Hunger. Every person we serve has a history of struggle yet has hopes and dreams for the future.

On World Refugee Day, we are reminded of the suffering of too many people who are living as refugees and internally displaced persons in our world. But we are also reminded of the difference we can make by offering a basis of hope for the future through the efforts we participate in as a member of the Lutheran World Federation. 

As a meditation for the day, I want to leave us with a poem written by Rukiya:

Came as stranger
with lost hope
no home
and became your members

We found friends and family
a safe ground to stand
strength and a helping hand
a new life and a chapter to carry on

You made us see far
unlocked our potentials
with strength and hope
we stood firm

You took time and listened
came down and reached us
brought us to light
and exposed our hidden talents

We have dreams and visions
hopes and missions
to fulfil our live ambitions
and reach every hill top

Now we are up and strong
built on strong base
stand with every race
and move on same pace

Thank you for your continued commitment to serve and provide hope to those most in need.  ~ Megan Bradfield, Director for International Disaster Response, ELCA.

 Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.