SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church will give $11 million to support famine relief projects and feed malnourished children in eight countries in Africa and the Middle East, the church announced Wednesday.
LDS Charities is partnering with 11 organizations on 25 projects to distribute the aid in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Niger, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, the site of what the U.N. last week called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently approved the payments, according to the news release.
"During our recent visits to Africa, we have seen firsthand the importance of helping to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters who face great challenges and difficult circumstances," Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of the church, said in a statement. "Contributions from our faithful members provide funding for food, shelter, clean water, medical care and other life-sustaining supplies for more than a million people — including severely malnourished children."
The presiding bishopric operates under the authority of the First Presidency and is responsible for the temporal affairs of the church, including LDS Charities and the Welfare Department.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned last week that while global humanitarian aid is averting a full-scale famine, people are dying.
"To keep famine at bay doesn’t mean to keep suffering at bay," Guterres said Tuesday. "So, millions and millions of people suffer, millions and millions of people are not food secure, and we have people dying at this very moment."
Humanitarian agencies and their partners, including LDS Charities, are reaching close to 30 million people each month with life-saving food, livelihood support, health, water and sanitation and nutrition assistance, Guterres reported.
LDS Charities has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance to millions of people in 189 countries since 1985, when an Ethiopian famine launched the faith's humanitarian effort.
The new announcement of LDS aid in cash and commodities will benefit 1.1 million people, the release said.
An estimated 20 million people face acute food insecurity conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya alone, according to USAID. Some areas in Somalia are suffering the worst drought in the 35 years, according to phys.org. The crisis is caused by prolonged drought, widespread violence, floods and disease. Another 10 million in the region face food insecurity.
LDS Charities partners with relief organizations around the world. It will partner with nongovernmental and faith-based organizations on the famine relief project, including CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Convoy of Hope, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief USA, Rahma Relief, Real Medicine Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, USA for UNHCR and the World Food Programme.
"What a wonderful opportunity we have to give of our substance to those who are suffering, to lighten their burdens and let them know that we care," said Sister Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society. "And how grateful we are for partners of like mind who help us serve those in places we cannot reach on our own."
In February, Guterres issued a call to action to respond to the threat of famine in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria and Yemen. Aid organizations have received 60 percent of the $4.9 billion needed to cover urgent humanitarian operations.
However, another $1.8 billion is required, and needs have deepened in the region. The U.N. News Centre reported that:
— In South Sudan, 6 million people are severely food insecure — more than half the population and an increase of 1 million
— In Somalia, 3.1 million people are now unable to meet their daily food needs, up 200,000 since the call to action.
— In Yemen, 17 million people are now food insecure, 6.8 million a step away from famine
— In northeast Nigeria, around 5.2 million people need of emergency assistance and an estimated 450,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year; 1 in 5 is likely to die without specialized treatment
"LDS Charities has consistently stepped up to help those who need it most in times of emergency," said Prerana Issar, World Food Programme director of Private Sector Partnerships. "Their trust in WFP and their compassion and drive to help those who cannot help themselves has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition around the world."
In 2016, the First Presidency and other world religious leaders and scholars issued statements through the World Food Programme calling for an end to world hunger.
"Our hearts, along with those of millions of others of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, are filled with compassion for the many of God’s children who suffer from lack of daily sustenance and who therefore cope with the devastating effects of hunger and malnutrition," the First Presidency said.
"... We invite people everywhere to open their hearts and minds to this growing need and make resources available to the effort of eliminating hunger where they live. ... As so many of God’s children across the globe are praying for relief, may we each seek ways in which we can help bring about the answers to those prayers."
The statement also described the church's practice of fasting and fast offerings.
"On the first Sabbath of each month, millions of church members all over the world go without food and water for two consecutive meals and contribute what would have been spent on those meals in order to feed hungry people," the First Presidency said.
"Thirty-thousand local bishops are charged with seeking out hungry people and helping to provide for their needs. Small individual efforts aggregate for a large impact. The small amounts of money gathered from many places fund a network of farms, orchards, canneries, mills and storehouses. Grocery store contracts are negotiated as well. Any person of any ability can participate in fasting to demonstrate a heart-felt commitment — expressed through personal sacrifice — to help those who are hungry."