This blog post was written by Office of Peacebuilding and Policy Food Insecurity Intern Priscilla Weddle.
In 2018, the current administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran. The sanctions cover shipping, finance, and energy with the goal of “limiting Tehran’s ability to fund destabilizing activities and forcing its leaders back into nuclear discussion” (Piven, 2020). These sanctions have had a devastating impact on the country’s economy and its citizens. Iran’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted an estimated 4.8% in 2018 and was forecast to shrink another 9.5% in 2019 (International Monetary Fund, 2019). Living costs have also risen as a result of inflation.
Inflation is estimated to reach 38% with rates being especially high for food items; for example, the cost of meat has gone up 116 percent (World Bank, 2019). The rising food prices and unemployment rate has resulted in many families being unable to purchase basic items. Zahra Abdollahi, the director of Iran’s Ministry of Health’s Department of Nutrition Improvement, has stated that “The eight provinces are suffering from food shortage and malnutrition problems along with other types of deprivation” (“Government In Iran Struggles To Provide Food Amid Shortages,” 2019). It has become increasingly difficult for the Iranian government to handle this situation as their resources continue to diminish as a result of the sanctions.
The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy has strong concerns about the welfare of the Iranian people because of the ways in which economic sanctions are correlated with insecurity and deprivation. We, as people of faith, have a moral impetus to advocate for “… the ways of living that lead toward a future filled with blessing and harmonious relationships rather than with violence and destruction,” as stated in the 1996 Statement on Nonviolence and Humanitarian Intervention. The U.S. should end its harsh trade sanctions that target the Iranian people.
The work of the Disaster Ministry is demanding and sometimes dangerous. Many humanitarian relief agencies focus on one main area of assistance, but the Disaster Ministry does it all. Their areas of focus include food, shelter and home repairs, trauma counseling, medical care, education of orphans, livelihood development for widows, along with training others in security and disaster preparedness. The work involves a lot of travel over poor roads and often in semi-secure areas. President of EYN, Joel Billi, said, “We always say a prayer when we see members of the disaster ministry leave the headquarters because we know they face many challenges as they assist others.”
In July alone, 736 persons received food, 10 homes in a remote area were roofed, 12 leaders attended the security workshop, 946 people were screened for Hepatitis B, and 40 victims received trauma counseling.
Successes: The IDPs who live in the EYN relocation camp near Abuja are beginning to care for themselves; people have secured farm lands, built new shelters for their families, bought used cars, and established small businesses. Teachers at the school are receiving a small salary.
Challenges: In Maiduguri, one of the temporary camps is located on donated personal property and now the owner wants his land back. Where will they go? Villages continue to be attacked by Boko Haram, refugees from Cameroon want to return to Nigeria but have no place to live. Please pray for our sisters and brothers in Nigeria.
The Ekklesiayar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN) Disaster Ministry visited two camps in Maiduguri. Shagari has 48 households and Cherubim & Seraphim has 65 households. The people are crowded into a small compound with 9-13 people sleeping in one 10X10 “tent” right next to the next one. There is often a lack of sufficient food for the camp, medical assistance is minimal, and many children are still not attending any school.
The Disaster Ministry registered the people at these two camps and brought food supplies.
In the town of Dabna in Hong Local Government Area 60 houses were destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency. The Disaster Ministry was able to put roofs on 27 of these homes. Not everyone can be helped but the church helps choose those who need the most help. Please continue to pray for Nigeria!
Food Distribution inside the destroyed church at Gulak.
The months from July until late October are called the “Lean Period” because people’s food from last year’s harvest is almost gone and the new crop is not yet ready. The Boko Haram insurgency has compounded this problem with a decreased ability to even plant crops. Statistics from United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Nigeria) states that 8.5 Million people in the area are still in need of humanitarian assistance.
The EYN Disaster Ministry Response team has been very active in the last few months with eight food distributions. A lot of planning and effort goes into providing an organized distribution to around 300 families at a time. Food must be bought in the local market, loaded on trucks and taken to the distribution point (often a church). The district leaders must have made a list of needy families in their area and contacted them to convene for the distribution. There is a lot of waiting as the process unfolds. There is the visual reminder of the insecurity in the area and the devastation that has affected their lives when they receive the food in a destroyed church. There is happiness in receiving the much needed food. Please continue to pray for the people of Northeast Nigeria.