Not long ago, they each cared for children they couldn’t feed.
Tumelo* was raising her grandchildren and had to beg her neighbors for cornmeal to give them. Bokang* had no food for himself or for the children in his care. Mohapi*, an orphaned fifteen-year-old boy, looked after his younger sister but was facing malnourishment himself.
These families live in Lesotho, a country in southern Africa that’s experiencing its worst drought in decades. The crops have failed. Until recently, these people faced starvation.
But because of assistance through Southern Baptists’ Global Hunger Relief (GHR) and Baptist Global Response (BGR), the caregivers and children will live. Teresa Flora, an International Mission Board missionary working with BGR, has watched each one receive a food packet. The gift brought Tumelo to tears.
“When we gave her the packet, she bowed down,” Flora says. “She just was overwhelmed, and she started telling us that she had been begging for food to feed her grandchildren because there was nothing in the house.”
Flora and her husband, Jim, currently operate a food distribution project in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. BGR helps them find resources for the effort, mainly through Global Hunger Relief funds. GHR, formerly known as the World Hunger Fund, is a Southern Baptist initiative to fight hunger in North America and around the world. BGR is a Southern Baptist humanitarian aid organization that specializes in disaster relief and community development.
Using GHR funds, the Floras’ project distributes food packets of mealie meal (cornmeal), salt, beans, oil, peanuts, and soup mix to 750 families who would otherwise starve. The couple has shared the stories of Tumelo, Bokang, and Mohapi, trying to raise awareness of Lesotho’s plight. And, Flora has photographed their faces for supporters in the United States, capturing the wear from worry and hunger.
“They’re very, very concerned—very desperate,” Flora says of the people in her images.
Their situation is bad. The Lesotho government, she reports, has tried to help by offering assistance such as subsidies for mealie meal. However, not everyone benefits because some don’t have any money for food at all. Signs of malnutrition are now popping up in the villages where the Floras work, especially among infants.
The Floras and BGR, along with the Southern Baptists donating to global hunger, are feeding the most vulnerable within a target area in the mountains. The 750 families in the Floras’ project will receive monthly food packets until next year’s harvest. And, they will receive some help in the fields, as well.
“Because the harvest was so bad, there was no seed,” Flora explains. “So, we’re just now starting the process of getting prices . . . to put together a seed distribution project for September, in time to plant again.”
Global Hunger Sunday on October 9 will help support these distributions. The annual giving campaign funds a wide variety of hunger projects, including those overseen by Baptist Global Response. Mark Hatfield, BGR area director for sub-Saharan Africa, says donations will be vital because drought has affected the entire region of southern Africa and southern Madagascar. The Lesotho project alone is costing $362,500.
“When you’re trying to feed people long-term, you’re talking about the costs going sky-high,” he says.
And although it costs plenty, the project will only feed a small percentage of Lesotho’s hungry. Caused by El Niño weather, the drought has ruined the country’s crops for the second year in a row, and conditions will likely get worse. According to a report from the United Nations Office of the Resident Coordinator in Lesotho, El Niño’s aftermath will affect the country’s food supply until at least April 2017. More than five hundred thousand in the country are at risk for food insecurity, and the United Nations (UN) says an estimated thirty-two million across southern Africa could face hunger until March 2017.
Hatfield says countries are struggling to deal with the crisis.
“Most governments didn’t prepare in any way or didn’t have the resources to prepare, and with all of the other major hunger situations with refugees around the world, the UN has very few food stocks and very little money to increase those food stocks in southern Africa,” he explains.
Because the drought will have lasting effects, governments, nonprofit organizations, and agencies across southern Africa might have to exhaust resources to feed the hungry. Hatfield says this difficult time can provide a way to for Christians to give people hope in the midst of extreme hardship.
“When you’re a subsistence farmer, you live with no margin in your life for something bad to happen, and when a drought comes along, you don’t have insurance policies or savings,” Hatfield says. “You don’t have friends who have savings. Your whole situation is pretty bleak unless someone comes along and helps you. It’s a great opportunity for the Church to show they care.”
Christians and churches can become involved in hunger relief through giving campaigns leading up to and following Global Hunger Sunday on October 9. Since church gifts through the Cooperative Program provide the administrative and implementing infrastructure for hunger relief projects, 100 percent of their donations will help feed the world’s eight hundred million who live with constant hunger.
In the coming months, people in Lesotho will need that generosity.
“Drought in Africa is not uncommon. It occurs every few years; a cyclical pattern,” BGR Executive Director Jeff Palmer says. “However, this current drought is one of the worst in recent memory. If churches can get on board and help BGR in the initial stages of this current drought, I believe that we can make a difference in the lives of thousands of people in need.”
Global Hunger Relief resources are available for churches to use while promoting Global Hunger Sunday at GlobalHungerRelief.com/resources. This material includes a poster, a bulletin insert, a video, a digital slider, and more. Families or Sunday School classes may even order plastic “bread banks” in the shape of loaves to a provide visual reminder to make contributions to global hunger. Baptist Global Response has also published a media kit to help churches prepare for October 9 at gobgr.org/resources/detail/global-hunger-sunday-media-kit-no-date.
Those interested may make donations through their local church or online at either site.
Any amount given helps fill a plate. And, in Lesotho, there are a lot of plates to fill.
Lily Jameson writes for Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist humanitarian aid organization, and is an active member of a local Baptist church.