Washington Witness: Early warning of empty tables

Jan 21, 2019 by

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At Christmas, we celebrated love and shared the joy of God’s gift of himself as a light to all people. Christmas is a season of grace that sparks unconditional generosity to others.

Charles Kwuelum


What about the rest of the year?

The joy of Christmas and the miracle of God’s love seems far away for Monday Gyang of Ni­geria, who was displaced with his nine family members by violence between farmers and herders. The fighting destroyed his livelihood, farmland and house and almost took his life.

On Christmas Day, Gyang’s family gathered for a meal in a makeshift tent at Rawuru camp in the local government area of Barkin Ladi. A few slices of bean cake and cups of kwunu (a gran­ulated corn drink) were served for lunch. They had little remaining from the last distribution of emergency food items at the camp.

Gyang’s family’s story is not unusual. Globally in 2017, 821 million people lived in hunger, and 150 million children experienced stunted growth.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network reports that across 46 countries, including northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, 83 million people will require food assistance in 2019 — staggeringly, 75 percent more than in 2015. This devastating situation requires a generous response from the international community.

The U.S. government provides emergency international food assistance through the Food for Peace program. In northeast Nigeria, Food for Peace provided assistance worth $197.6 million in 2018. As of this writing, the spending levels for 2019 are yet to be finalized.

To address a crisis of this scale, the U.S. government will need to extend Food for Peace emergency assistance in 2019 to communities ravaged by violence in Nigeria’s Plateau State. This funding would save lives, particularly pregnant mothers, infants and children.

As part of our work in Ni­geria, Mennonite Central Committee supports Emergency Preparedness Response Teams to reach communities ravaged by violence, particularly in Plateau State. This response includes the distribution of food and nonfood items.

Uniquely, the emergency teams integrate peace education into their relief distribution. This helps create safer spaces and opportunities for interaction and understanding among warring parties.

We are called to help spread God’s unending generosity and to be heralds of God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7). As part of this calling, we should commit ourselves to pray for our lawmakers and to encourage them to make policies that enhance dignity. In the midst of violence and natural disasters, such policies will enable tables to be filled with plenty at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Charles Kwuelum is a legislative associate for international affairs in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office.

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