A $539,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) will benefit an estimated 40,000 people in Sudan as a massive wave of internally displaced people return to their home areas after two decades of war drove them out.
"Sudan continues to exist on the cusp of a humanitarian crisis of quite daunting proportions," commented Kathryn Wolford, LWR President. "We applaud the Gates Foundation for helping to address the monumental challenges that need immediate attention in Sudan."
According to LWR, most of the people returning to their home areas have limited, if any, means to engage in economic activity, which increases the resource strain and inter-group tensions on existing populations. The Baltimore-based agency reports that for these host populations, the impact of the war has also been traumatic, as repeated displacement, inaccessibility of land, chronic insecurity, lack of services and prolonged periods of both drought and flooding have devastated local livelihoods and well-being.
"As the rate of returning people increases the needs of both populations will continue to overwhelm the current availability of resources," Wolford continued.
Experts also warn that local authorities simply don't have the capacity to provide these necessary resources. Without immediate assistance from external sources such as governments and non-governmental organizations, the situation will only worsen.
"There is a critical window of opportunity to help avert further suffering among the people of southern Sudan," said Suzanne Cluett, Associate Director of Global Health Strategies at the Gates Foundation. "We're pleased to support Lutheran World Relief, which has led many successful health interventions in crisis situations.
LWR, which acts on behalf of U.S. Lutherans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has been responding to emergencies and disasters since its founding in 1945. Working through partners and global relief and development networks, LWR works in 50 countries to provide not only relief but to combat the causes of poverty and restore the dignity it robs from people's lives.
"The $539,000 grant from the Gates Foundation will be combined with $180,000 from LWR emergency monies to fund an intervention designed to meet the immediate and medium-term needs of both returnee and host populations alike," said LWR's Africa Program Director, Evariste Karangwa.
According to LWR, the intervention includes a primary healthcare component that will establish three clinics, distribute medicines and provide staff support, community health worker training and traditional birth attendants. It also will provide shelter and household necessities such as plastic sheeting, blankets, mosquito nets, fishing twine, pots, plates and other related items. Helping people begin to provide food for themselves again, the effort also makes available to farming families vegetable and staple crop seeds, hand tools and agricultural training.
"It's a comprehensive approach," adds Karangwa. "It's only limited by the funding we have, in terms of how many people we can assist. The approach is proven; we can only help so many people with each dollar available."
Currently funding for LWR's work in Sudan with its partners, Church Ecumenical Action in Sudan and Lutheran World Federation Department for World Service Kenya/Sudan comes from partners in the U.S., such as The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, parish groups, other organizations, foundations and individuals.
However, LWR reports that there is still an urgent need for support.