A glimmer of hope shines amid ongoing Sahel crisis

By April 10, 2013

Sahel (MNN) — How do you respond when someone brings you food? Maybe you say "Thank you, or do something nice for them in return.

Jeff Palmer of Baptist Global Response (BGR) says people in the Sahel region respond like this: "They started dancing and sang a song of thankfulness that they just made up on the spot, saying, 'You know who's cared for us? Who's cared for us? These followers of Jesus cared for us.'"

About 12 million people are facing widespread famine in the Sahel region. BGR recently brought food and supplies to Christian communities that had absolutely nothing.

"These were groups of believers that have fled their areas, and they had no other agencies that were helping them," states Palmer. Teams were able to meet needs in two ways.

"It's a great door-opener for not only ministering physically, but for our folks on-ground to share the Truth," Palmer says. "It's a message of hope, of saying, 'Somebody cares.'"

Palmer says BGR focuses on helping people who "fall through the cracks" of the governmental system. The recent delivery allowed one family to eat for the first time in a week.

"You have a lot of people caught in this very complex situation," Palmer explains. "Crops have failed because of famine; [they] can't grow the food because they can't stay in one area."

The Sahel is a 3,400-mile stretch that spans from coast-to-coast of Africa. It covers portions of Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Eritrea, as well as volatile nations like Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Droughts are nothing new to those living in the Sahel region, as the crisis recurs every 7 to 10 years. However, throw in flooding, insurgencies, and higher food prices, and the issue complicates. Top it all off with so-called compassion fatigue among donors, and aid groups face a significant challenge.

BGR is taking a three-prong approach to staving off widespread famine and helping people in need. Palmer says their project involves not only the distribution of food packets, but health and hygiene kits, as well as temporary shelters.

"Those food packets basically help them transition and sustain when they don't have anything," explains Palmer.

Temporary shelters help shield people from the elements. Health and hygiene kits consist of "things like soap, basic shampoo, detergent, things like that."

Can you help? Click here to support BGR's Famine Relief Fund.

"We would love to take what you can give and put it 100% toward helping folks in need," Palmer states.

Ask God to give people in the Sahel region hope for tomorrow. Praythat BGR teams will show Jesus through their actions.

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