NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Southern Baptists face a “red alert”
crisis in their World Hunger Fund just as a massive drought/famine cycle
threatens nearly 11 million people in the Horn of Africa, a Southern Baptist
humanitarian leader announced July 25.
The situation is compounded by greatly increased needs around the world while
giving to the World Hunger Fund has sharply declined, said Jeff Palmer,
executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR), an international relief
and development organization.
“We are now at a ‘red alert’ time for our human needs funding,” Palmer said. “The
overseas hunger relief fund is down to $4.1 million dollars — enough to meet
the needs of Southern Baptist international hunger projects for six months.
These projects help the poorest of the poor, the most neglected and
marginalized and some of the most lost people groups in the world. We are
approaching a baseline where we are going to have to start denying funds to
Southern Baptists donated $4.3 million to the World Hunger Fund in 2010, only
40 percent of what they gave during a 12-month span a decade earlier, according
to numbers supplied by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty
Commission (ERLC). The ERLC focuses on hunger awareness as a moral/social
issue. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention distributes
donations to the World Hunger Fund to International Mission Board (IMB — 80
percent) and North American Mission Board (NAMB — 20 percent).
“Last year was the lowest donations to the World Hunger Fund have been in 20
years,” Palmer said. “This is very disturbing, seeing the huge need of the
crisis looming in the Horn of Africa. Our Southern Baptist avenue of seeing the
lost, last and least be helped both physically and spiritually is about to dry
Recent news reports have heightened interest in the crisis in the Horn of
Africa and neighboring countries in eastern Africa, where the United Nations
estimates about 770,000 people have fled to refugee camps and about $1.3
billion will be needed to address the crisis. The region suffers from long-term
cycles of severe hunger, sharpened now by decades of failed crops, economic
crises and climate changes.
The drought in the Horn is the worst since 1951, noted Abraham Shepherd, who
with his wife Grace directs Baptist Global Response work in Northern Africa. He
pointed to a USAID analysis that says the drought has driven up food prices and
weakened livestock, thus increasing malnutrition, hunger and famine.
Hunger projects in the Horn and eastern Africa have totaled more than $250,000
just in the past two years, Palmer said.
“Southern Baptists, who care so deeply about people in need, have given very
generously to the World Hunger Fund in years past,” Palmer said. “They are able
to give in confidence because every dollar donated to the World Hunger Fund is
used 100 percent to help hungry people. Now it looks like the World Hunger Fund
has become the best-kept secret in Southern Baptist life. It’s a secret that
needs to get out for the sake of millions whose lives and destinies are
threatened by hunger or starvation.”
While World Hunger Sunday is scheduled in Southern Baptist churches for Oct. 9,
the dual crises in Africa and the World Hunger Fund call for a daily response
to people in desperate need today, Shepherd added.
“In Africa, thousands have fled as refugees or IDPs (internally-displaced
people) and others await their fate,” Shepherd said. “We can eat when we are
hungry, but they cannot. Would you care to make a difference?”
The World Hunger Fund fights hunger in the United States as well as abroad,
“Twenty percent of the donations to the World Hunger Fund are used domestically
through the North American Mission Board to feed people like the victims of the
Alabama and Joplin tornados,” Palmer said. “The remainder is used overseas
through the International Mission Board.
“Southern Baptists who want to make a difference in world hunger can do that
best by giving through their local church, designating it for the Southern
Baptist World Hunger Fund,” Palmer added. “You can encourage your church and
fellow members to give. You also can give through your state Baptist
convention. To help with hunger needs in the USA, you can give through the
North American Mission Board, and for overseas needs, you can give through the
International Mission Board.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press.
Donations designated for the Horn of Africa crisis can be made through the
International Mission Board at imb.org.
Resources for promoting the World Hunger Fund can be found at worldhungerfund.com. Baptist Global
Response is on the web at gobgr.com.)