Humanitarian needs up 40 percent thanks to COVID-19

By December 3, 2020

East Africa (MNN) — The number of people who need help surviving another day rose 40-percent this year, the UN reports. COVID-19 made life even harder for the world’s most vulnerable people groups.

Earlier this week, UN agencies and their partners summarized this year’s global trends and highlighted critical needs for 2021. The Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) 2021 sets out 34 response plans covering 56 vulnerable countries.

“A clear choice confronts us. We can let 2021 be the year of the grand reversal – the unraveling of 40 years of progress – or we can work together to make sure we all find a way out of this pandemic,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said.

In East Africa, millions of people were already suffering from years of prolonged drought followed by record-setting floods. Then came the locusts.

“Now with COVID-19 coming and building on those, it has been quite a challenge,” says Peter, a Christian worker serving in East Africa with World Concern.

Woman collects water from a protected water well.
(Photo, caption by Daryl Finley/World Concern)

“We’ve focused much on the Horn of Africa, which has a huge share of the problems that are affecting people.”

As described here, wild weather is behind most of the region’s current woes. Pandemic restrictions and lockdowns add another economic hit.

East Africa’s plagues

Ongoing drought continues to decimate the food supply livestock depend on. Nomadic communities, whose livelihoods hinge on raising and selling livestock, suffer as a result. In other parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, “communities living there rely on the river line for their livelihoods, but when floods come [they] cause a lot of destruction,” Peter explains.

People who make a living on agriculture may have withstood the drought and flooding. However, “in 2019, a massive infestation of locusts [compounded] the old challenges; what we are calling currently the ‘triple threat’ of the drought, the floods, and the desert locust,” Peter says.

“World Concern is looking at how it can bridge the gap of need, both for the acute and critical needs that are arising from the loss of livelihoods.”

Instead of applying a “one size fits all” strategy, World Concern first assesses the community’s specific immediate and long-term needs. Then, teams introduce a solution that community members can easily learn and implement.

For example, in communities that desperately need food, “we’ve been able to work on the immediate need, which is food access, and provide [for that] through cash transfers,” Peter says. Whenever possible, he continues, World Concern provides long-term sustainable solutions like agricultural support “to train them on how they can be able to diversify their livelihoods.”

Religious restrictions prevent World Concern workers from sharing the Gospel in some East African nations, but those constraints cannot stop the Holy Spirit.

“[We] may not be able to talk about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ, but we’ve been able to come so close with the community because of the work that we do [and] the values that World Concern stands for,” Peter says.

Send emergency nutrition to malnourished children in East Africa here. Pray believers find creative ways to share Christ, and pray for wisdom for World Concern leaders.



In header image, a young girl draws water from an unprotected well. Donkeys stand near in hope of getting some water to drink.  (Photo, caption courtesy of Daryl Finley/World Concern)