March 24, 2020 by Pat Cole
Before a hunger emergency struck Somalia, Hawo Abdi and her husband were successful herders near their country’s border with Kenya.
However, two years of intensive drought parched the land to the point that they could no longer raise the camels, cattle, sheep and goats that supported their pastoralist lifestyle. The country’s civil war added further complications to the situation. As her family faced economic ruin, Abdi’s husband died, and at the time of his death, she was two months pregnant with the couple’s fifth child.
Desperate to feed her children, Abdi, 29, decided to leave her home in El-Wak, Somalia, and walk to the Tulia-Anin Camp for internally displaced people. She felt she had no choice but to make the high-risk two-day journey and try as best she could to look out for the safety of her four young children and her unborn child. People who make this trek face the possibility of attack from armed groups, and food and water are scarce.
“We had nothing to take with us, and we had to beg for water,” she says. At the camp, located just outside Beled-Hawa, Somalia, they found refuge, water and food. Abdi and her children receive a monthly allocation of rice, beans, cooking oil and sugar that One Great Hour of Sharing gifts helped provide.
While life is difficult, Abdi and her children, including her baby, are safe and nourished. “The food aid has improved the living conditions of my family,” she says. “I was able to feed my starving children.”
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) partners with Kaalmo Relief and Development to provide food aid to people in the camp. “We are very grateful for your contribution,” says Mohamed Ahmed Iriri, Kaalmo’s director. “It will help us a lot in fighting the hunger and poverty affecting our people in Somalia.”
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 5.4 million people in Somalia are food insecure, and another 2.6 million people are internally displaced.
The UN has declared that Somalia and three other countries — Northern Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen — are experiencing famine. The causes of famine in the northeast region are driven by political strife, including the Boko Haram insurgency and a conflict between farmers and herders, extreme weather conditions, especially flooding, and a dearth of agricultural infrastructure from years of little to no investment. A famine declaration means that at least 20 percent of people in an area face extreme food shortages and large numbers of people are dying from hunger.
One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping to address this crisis through PC(USA) partners in each of the famine-stricken countries. These partners are helping with emergency food assistance and addressing the underlying causes of hunger.
In Yemen, One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping to restore the livelihoods of fisherfolk. Their catches provide both income and meals for their families. The Offering helped replace equipment for fisherfolk who lost the tools needed to practice their trade when civil war violence reached their communities.
One-third of Yemen’s population lives along its 1,200-mile coastline, and fish is a nutritional staple for them, says Salah Nehmi, program officer for PC(USA) partner Generations Without Qat, a non-governmental organization based in Yemen.
Nehmi praises the PC(USA)’s commitment to sustainable development and expressed gratitude for the people whose gifts make the church’s work possible. “The Yemeni people appreciate your support and prayers,” he says. “Your support helped some very vulnerable people in Yemen and saved lives.”
In South Sudan, One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping women whose lives have been turned upside down by interethnic conflict over access to land, seeds and tools. Most are widows of men killed in the fighting, and/or they are survivors of sexual assaults that occurred amid the conflict. They face the daunting task of feeding their families in a country beset by violence, drought, crop disease and pests.
PC(USA) partner Hope Restoration South Sudan has been working with these women, providing them both the means and the training needed to farm well. The women are growing healthy crops that are nourishing families and generating income, says Angelina Nyajima, director of Hope Restoration South Sudan.
Hope Restoration South Sudan links them with markets so they can sell the produce they don’t eat. “They are using the money to buy additional food and to set up small businesses,” she says. “They are building their confidence and are learning to advocate for themselves.”
Nyajima says that PC(USA) support helped “change the lives” of these women. Her prayer, she stresses, is that the transformation will continue.
Beyond farm-related activities, Hope Restoration South Sudan is using One Great Hour of Sharing gifts to provide psychosocial support to gender-based violence survivors and initiating activities aimed at preventing sexual assaults.
In Nigeria, One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping to revitalize agriculture in Michika, a community in northern Nigeria. Michika, like many other communities in Nigeria, was overrun by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been engaged in a violent conflict with the Nigerian government since 2009.
The residents of Michika had to flee for their lives in 2014, but conditions in Michika eventually improved and they began to return. However, their livelihoods in this once-productive farming community were ruined, and there were few resources to begin again. A PC(USA) partner, Civil Society Coalition for Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE), is using One Great Hour of Sharing gifts to help farmers get back on their feet.
One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are providing vegetable seeds, training and water pumps to farmers who focus on growing crops during Nigeria’s dry season. Groups of five farmers have been given one pump that will provide irrigation from a well or nearby stream.
“They returned to nothing,” says Peter Egwudah, director of CISCOPE. “Their means of livelihood, social infrastructure, their houses and so many things that actually keep the community going were destroyed.”
Food security is the first step toward rebuilding the community, Egwudah says. “If they are not food secure, nothing can happen. You cannot build something on nothing.”
He expresses his gratitude to U.S. Presbyterians for helping this community. “Your gifts are appreciated, and more is needed because there are more vulnerable people and more vulnerable communities that have lost their livelihoods,” he says.
For 71 years, One Great Hour of Sharing gifts have been giving a hand up to vulnerable people. The Offering provides support to the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Self-Development of People, and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Most congregations receive the Offering on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.
This was originally published for Presbyterian News Service on March 24, 2020.