Lutherans Expand Response to Niger Food Crisis

Lutheran World Relief is scaling up its response to the Niger food crisis, as the implementing partner of an appeal through Action by Churches Together (ACT) International

Lutheran World Relief is scaling up its response to the Niger food crisis, as the implementing partner of an appeal through a global coalition of churches and faith-based agencies working in relief and development.

With a 30-year history in Niger and established relationships with its local partner agencies, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) was “a natural choice” to implement the appeal by Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, according to LWR president Kathryn Wolford.

"By working on behalf of our partners in ACT, we will be able to nearly double the reach that we would have on our own," she said, according to a statement released by LWR.

Niger, the world's second poorest nation, is suffering a food shortage caused by poor rains and locust attacks that decimated last year's crops. Approximately 3.5 million people are affected, 800,000 of them children. Livestock intended for food are themselves starving, for lack of feed. Rising food prices have made it impossible for the most impoverished to purchase what food is available, and a belated international response has allowed the situation to reach crisis proportions.

"This is a large disaster that's gone unnoticed," said the Rev. Dr. Rafael Malpica-Padilla, executive director of the ELCA Division for Global Mission, which is providing $100,000 toward ACT-LWR's work in Niger. "Because of the lack of a prompt response from the international community, now we have a situation that's more difficult to address. We must be attentive to these 'silent disasters' that affect millions of people. We have a long history of companionship with LWR, and we know LWR's good track record - it's an important partner and companion for us."

As the implementing agency of the ACT appeal, LWR is seeking $763,185 to expand its existing programs in Maradi, Tillaberi and Tahoua, which are among the areas worst affected by the food crisis. LWR and partners will provide supplemental food rations, purchased from local markets in Niger and neighboring markets in Nigeria, to approximately 93,000 people. These will meet the most immediate needs and bridge the gap until the World Food Program food distribution pipelines reach these communities, LWR reports.

According to the agency, the ACT-LWR response in Niger will be partially funded by generous gifts from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), the two church bodies that support LWR's work. Recently, LCMS World Relief and Human Care pledged $20,000 to the ACT-LWR appeal.

"LCMS World Relief, St. Louis treasures our partnership with LWR Baltimore," said the Rev. Matthew Harrison, that agency's executive director. "Through LWR our donors combine their gifts with many other individuals and organizations to bring immediate aid to critical situations. We are confident thousands will be assisted immediately. And the people of the LCMS are honored to participate as good world citizens in this humanitarian work."

With an agency-wide commitment to addressing the root causes of poverty, not just the symptoms, LWR will also include longer-term efforts in its Niger response. These plans include the distribution of 10 tons of seed stock for future plantings, repair of five existing grain banks, and construction of 30 new ones. Grain banks will be used to store seeds between harvests, and after the harvest each household that received seeds will repay 1/3 of the amount received, provided the harvest is sufficient.