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.

Mauritania: LWF’s New Approach to Food Shortage, the Freedom to Choose

Posted on June 11, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Mauritania and surrounding countries are continuing to experience growing drought. According to the UN Development Programme more than 15 million people in the Sahel region in Western Africa risk undernourishment. It also notes that though there have been many positive improvements in the area still more than a quarter of the population are still food insecure.

To help address this situation in a manner that best meets the needs and respectes the dignity of the people being served, the LWF has implemented a new approach. They, working with the World Food Programme, are providing 5,000 vulnerable families with cash to purchase food over a six-month period of time. Though for some this may seem like a risky venture the following quote from an LWF article about the situation makes a great point:

Mohammed Jiddou works for the WFP [World Food Programme] in Nouakchott and is responsible for the cash transfer project. He says the implementation of the project is faster than distributing food from abroad, which takes at least three to four months between the control and distribution to beneficiaries.

The program allows families most at risk the freedom to choose what foods they need. It also stimulates the local economy by guaranteeing the food is bought locally. And as can been seen from the quote above, in the midst of a disaster time is of the essence and this program gets food to people potentially months sooner than traditional methods.

To learn more about the program, how it run and how it is received, read the full LWF article: Freedom to Choose Food During Shortages

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

West Africa: Update from LWF Amidst Worsening Drought

Posted on June 1, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Mali and surrounding countries. Credit: reliefweb

According to the World Bank more than 17 million people in the West Africa Sahel region are now facing food shortages and possible starvation. The most affected countries are Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso where poor rainfall and food shortages have driven the prices of staple foods beyond the ability of the poorer members of society to afford.

Along with the current situation of drought and food insecurity there has been continued violence in Mali and Niger that has forced 300,000 people from their homes. Many of these are finding refuge in neighboring countries. Almost 160,000 Malian refugees have been registered in neighboring countries. Of these over 61,000 are in Mauritania at the Lutheran World Federation-managed camp of Mbéré.

The need in the region is still great and it is believed the food security crisis will not peak until late summer/early fall. As we gather in worship and within our individual prayer life, please continue to lift up the people of this region and those who work on their behalf. In the midst of conflict and drought may God grant them strength, peace and lead them into safety.

To learn more see the links below and to give see the link at the bottom of this post.

World Bank: Drought Worsens in the Sahel Region | LWF: 16th Sitrep on the Crisis in the Sahel
Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Kenya, South Sudan & Sudan: New (and Returning) Arrivals at Kakuma

Posted on May 25, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new feature story from the Lutheran World Federation looks at the increasing number of South Sudanese and Sudanese who are ending up at Kakuma refugee camp in northwesetern Kenya. For some this is a return trip after they left the camp years ago to move home to Sudan and the new country of South Sudan. Yet violence on the border of the two countries and internally with South Sudan have led them to flee for safer areas.

The situation is also heightened because Kakuma has also been taking overflow Somali refugees from the overcrowded Dadaab camp on the Kenya-Somilia border. This has led to a situation in Kakuma where overcrowding and processing have also become problems. Read the report from Rose Karimi, LWF gender equity and human rights officer at Kakuma camp, to learn more about the situation and the work of the Lutheran World Federation and ACT Alliance in the camp.

Back Again at the Reception Center

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

South Sudan: Reflection from the Field

Posted on May 25, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Sarah Dreier is the Legislative Representative for International Policy, a position shared jointly between the ELCA Washington Office and the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. She reflects upon her recent trip to South Sudan and suggests how you can get involved.

Resilience amidst uncertainty: Lessons from South Sudan

“But what do you do to cope?” I asked my new friend, Anne, who coordinates Lutheran World Federation refugee programming in Kenya and lived in the Dadaab refugee camp for several years.

Anne looked up at me with a sparkle in her eye.

“In Dadaab, we dance. Every night, we dance.”

South Sudanese dancing and singing at an afternoon celebration in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

I saw this same resilience thriving across South Sudan, amidst the conflict, poverty, and desperate need for development – thriving over the daily trials. It was in the young woman, gracefully carrying gallons of water overhead as she strolled down Bor’s dusty, dirt road. I saw it in a local performance troupe, dancing and singing under Juba’s scorching afternoon sun. It was in Jonglei State’s tribal leaders as they returned once again to try to negotiate a peaceful resolution to their tribal conflicts that have taken so many lives this year. I felt from my fellow worshipers in the vibrant, packed Cathedral in Juba late Sunday morning and into Sunday afternoon. And I heard it in the powerful voice of South Sudan’s Minister of Labour as she commanded international aid agencies to hire more South Sudanese employees.

This is a resilience that the South Sudanese carry along with their looming memories of incomprehensible turmoil and their expectations for future uncertainty. I learned that one local development colleague who is working tirelessly to strengthen South Sudanese agricultural capacities while addressing the daily realities of malaria, poverty-based hunger, and conflict, had been kidnapped as a small boy to become a child soldier. Another young man had fled to a Ugandan refugee camp as a baby and returned to his country—on foot with his wife and two young children—only last year, when South Sudan became independent.

“How long did it take you to walk back?” I asked.

“Three or four days, only. But for you, it would take much longer,” he said with a grin.

Workers building an LWF emergency response compound outside Bor. Credit: ELCA/Megan Bradfield

It is hard for me to comprehend the daily challenges and insecurities the South Sudanese face. The tribes in Jonglei State just last week arrived at a delicate peace agreement to end violence, cattle raiding, and child abductions amongst them and have begun an equally precarious disarmament process focused (in part) on retrieving weapons from youth. South Sudan’s escalating war with Sudan (driven in large part by oil) has absorbed precious state resources away from development, forcing South Sudanese to live with unpaved dirt roads, insufficient education, bare-minimum health care services, and little capacity to farm their nutrient-rich land. Meanwhile, South Sudanese and other Christians living in the north face increased persecution and those living in the border regions live under the constant threat of random attack or starvation. But through it all, the South Sudanese remain resilient, wise, and capable.

Yet U.S. policies and rhetoric do not reflect the South Sudanese’ promising capacity to thrive and flourish—by growing their own food, for example—which is tragically thwarted by a severe lack of resources.

Americans should shift our narrative—and the United States government its development policies—in South Sudan, away from assumptions of despair, to reflect this Sudanese capacity for resilience.

Tell your Representative to join the 14 Republicans and 62 Democrats who support HR 4169, the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012, and to support the bill’s underlying commitment to sustainable peace and development by supplementing U.S. food assistance with robust funding to U.S. programs that invest in agricultural development and small-scale farming in South Sudan and around the world.

For more information check out the e-Advocacy Alert.

West Africa: Work of Church and Personal Stories in Senegal

Posted on May 4, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A newsrelease from the Lutheran World Federation gives an overview of the situation in Senegal during the drought affecting the Sahel region in West Africa. It touches on the work of the LWF and the Lutheran Church in Senegal to meet the needs of the local population as they deal with back-to-back years of decreased rainfall. It also tells the story of affected individuals who are struggling to sustain themselves.

The main theme is that this problem is getting worse and that local resources are already stretched. International engagement from organizations like the ACT Alliance and LWF, of which the ELCA is a member of both, can be a major player in how this situation turns out.

I would recommend taking a moment to get a bit of an insider’s view of what’s going on in the region and how gifts to ELCA Disaster Response help support the work being done on the ground through the local churches and LWF.

Read the LWF newsrelease Living Next To Nothing in Senegal’s Drought-Hit Region. (pdf)

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

West Africa: 12th Situation Report from LWF

Posted on April 26, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Camp Mberre in Mauritania is run by LWF as a member of the ACT Alliance. Credit: LWF/Thomas Ekelund

A new situation report from the Lutheran World Federation includes updates on their work in Mauritania with Malian refugees at Camp Mberre and their work with the Lutheran Church in Senegal.

In Camp Mberre they are working to provide enough tents for incoming refugees, with their capacity being 300 new tents constructed each day while the influx of refugees sits between 500-1200 daily. Currently the camp population sits just under 59,000. Also, decreased security in certain regions of Mali has lead the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to announce that a massive movement of refugees is heading towards Mauritania.

In Senegal the church is working to implement a program focused on disaster prevention and risk reduction within at-risk communities in the region. They are helping to identify and train local committees to implement these programs so that the knowledge is kept at home and the skills of the local population are leveraged in their response.

As the LWF continues its work in the region please keep those who are fleeing danger and those who work to meet them in prayer during this trying time. Also pray for those who are working to prepare themselves in the face of disaster, that they may be empowered to lessen and hopefully prevent the effects of disaster.

Read the full report here.

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

Advocacy: Drought Affected East and West Africa

Posted on April 5, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The following message is from the ELCA e-Advocacy list. This lists is sent out by the Advocacy office of the ELCA to inform people of the what political issues are going on and how people can get involved. This particular message is about the situation of drought in East Africa and now West Africa, how actions within the US Congress can impact the situation and how you can get involved.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Before we turn our hearts and minds to Jesus’ path to the cross and joyous resurrection this holy weekend, we can first follow Christ’s teachings by urging Congress to act on behalf of the millions in Africa living in dire insecurity and uncertainty.

Conflict, draught, and resulting food shortages have left tens of millions of people – from Sahel to Sudan to Somalia – in crisis, facing starvation and malnutrition and forced to leave their homes and relocate in refugee camps. These men, women, and children will face even greater hardship if we do not act to protect U.S. funding for the life-saving programs upon which they depend for food, clean water and secure shelter.

In the Horn of Africa

13 million people are currently living in food crisis, still suffering from the effects of last year’s drought which forced millions to leave their homes to take refuge in camps.

Meanwhile, the plight of famine has spread west, putting 15.5 million people in West Africa’s Sahel region at risk, including eight million who need emergency assistance. Over ten million already face food insecurity and an additional one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition. Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger are all experiencing dangerously high malnutrition levels while in Mali alone, conflict and food shortages have displaced 100,000 people. The crisis is only expected to worsen in the coming months.

Between the crises to their east and west, Sudan and South Sudan suffer while combating their own humanitarian crises. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced or severely affected by violence in South Kordofan, an area vulnerable to Sudan’s Armed Forces’ aerial bombing, ground attacks, sexual violence, denial of humanitarian assistance, and other tactics which some have dubbed ‘weapons of mass starvation.’ An estimated 28,000 Sudanese have been forced to relocate to South Sudan’s Yida refugee camp.

Through its membership in The Lutheran World Federation, the ELCA is participating in relief efforts with Lutheran churches and partners in these emergency crises.

Yet in the midst of these dire and enduring crises, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the House Budget Committee’s fiscal year 2013 Budget Resolution last week, which cuts the International Affairs Budget by 11 percent. The cuts include the eliminating Feed the Future and cutting the U.S. Agency for International Development’s International Disaster Assistance by 40 to 60 percent. Meanwhile, the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget request proposes cuts to essential poverty-focused programs that provide refugees and displaced people with access to food, shelter, and water, including a 13.3% cut ($250
million) to the Migration and Refugee Assistance.

CLICK HERE to tell your senators and representative to maintain funding for the International Affairs Accounts that provide essential food, water, shelter, and support to the millions of refugees around the world who have been forced to make incomprehensible sacrifices.

Want to do more? Call your senators and representatives, who are at home in your district during recess, and tell them to protect the International Affairs account from the deep, disproportionate cuts made in the House of Representatives’ FY13 Budget Resolution.


West Africa: 9th LWF Situation Report on Sahel

Posted on April 5, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new situation report from the Lutheran World Federation give an overview of the political and humanitarian situation affecting the Sahel region of West Africa that is current being affected by drought. The country of Mali is also experience internal conflict, leading to a growing refugee situation alongside the food crisis. This report looks mainly at Mauritania, Mali and Senegal as well as the actions of the LWF in the region.

You can read the report here.

For more information on the situation please visit the ELCA Disaster Response webpage West Africa Sahel Drought Relief. Here you can also find a situation report and bulletin insert to help share the story.

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

South Sudan: Resource Shares South Sudanese Stories of LWF Work

Posted on March 29, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Written by two members of Australian Lutheran World Service on a visit to South Sudan, “Coming Home” is a collection of stories around the work of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as it extends back many years in this newly formed country. It is not meant to be systematic or exhaustive and in this way it is actually quite an easy, and extremely interesting, read.

In these pages you will meet indiviudal South Sudanese citizens and hear their stories. What are the major issues that have affected them? How have LWF projects like boreholes and schools been received? What are the benefits of these programs? Who owns them? How have other LWF projects, like Kakuma refugee camp, played a role in the lives of these citizens of the new South Sudan?

If you find any of these questions intriguing than I would recommend give this resource a good look.

Download and read Coming home. (pdf)

Kenya: Feeding School Children, Pastoralists Become Farmers & More

Posted on March 12, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The following is a great update from the ACT Alliance of ongoing responses in Kenya to the drought which has been affecting the area since early last summer. Read how a feeding program has improved the lives of students and is in the transition to a sustainable community gardening project. Also, see how a traditional pastoralist is learning to become a farmer and read of education is the hope for the future.

ACT Alliance members transform lives in Kenya
By George Arende

Emukutan primary school pupil receiving food from ACK feeding program.

Welcome to Emukutan primary school, which besides molding and educating future leaders also provides the one and only meal to 160 children living in a drought affected area of Kajiado County.

Started in 2006 as a community school, it is located close to the main road, making it accessible and the best alternative for many people. Previously they were forced to walk several kilometers in order to attend public schools supported by the government of Kenya.

The dry-spell and lack of rains in 2009, which led to severe drought and loss of animals, has affected the school’s attendance. This trend changed in Sept 2011 following food distribution of maize, beans, cooking oil and ujimix by ACT Alliance member, Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) – Kajiado Diocese.