According to the United Nations we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945 in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and now Kenya. The figures are sobering.
Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. – Stephen O’Brien, UN
20 million is a difficult figure to visual, so I’m going to do a bit of comparison to help me. That’s just under 1/3 of the population of the UK. It’s more than the population of London (approx 7 m) and Paris (approx 11 m) together. It’s one in three of my neighbours, my family.
Lord, I don’t want to ignore this suffering! Please show me how to pray for these people.
It’s not just the lack of rain and poor agriculture causing this, it’s war and widespread violence that are the reason why people in these nations are starving. Years of conflict have meant people have fled their homes to more remote areas, often far from help. Crops have been destroyed or never planted. Infrastructure has crumbled. Aid workers are hindered by distance and danger.
Since I started to pray for rain in the region I have not been able to stop thinking about what is happening there. I’ve been praying – but it’s not enough. The reports in the last days have intensified and changed my prayers to cries for action (I was late for an appointment yesterday and got a more than irritated greeting, partly because I’d stopped for a few minutes to pray after parking my car).
I don’t want to be simply emotive, but I do believe that as we allow ourselves to feel and identify with people in need we connect with the heart of God. It’s all too easy for me to switch off and forget that these are real people, to pray a prayer, maybe give a donation and then just get on with life. Even as I write this I am struggling with my desire to just turn away, not engage. Lord, help me to care, to love as You love, to stand in the gap and not turn my gaze away.
I’m challenged by the conclusion of the top UN humanitarian official, Stephen O’Brien:
“It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes. It is all preventable.”
That’s from a purely human perspective. I need to know God’s heart in this in order to pray meaningfully, but this is where I’m starting:
Global leaders need to take notice of the problems. About $600 million has been pledged but the UN estimates $1.5 billion is needed this year – Father, stir their hearts with compassion to bring to bear the resources needed. Thank You for the many people working to avert this disaster. strengthen them, encourage them, give them wisdom in the use of resources and protection as they work in dangerous conditions.
There needs to be security in those nations and an end to war – Father, give wisdom to those in charge of police and peacekeeping forces to know if and how those forces can be deployed to protect civilians and aid convoys. Give insight and understanding to those negotiating peace where it’s possible. Let there be justice and mercy.
Infrastructure has been damaged making distribution of aid very difficult. Lord, raise up Joseph-like people who can plan a strategy of provision.
Long term there still needs to be rain and good agriculture and people to work the land – Lord, send the rain, the spring rains, life-giving rains. Restore people to their own land, raise up farmers and help them to wisely and honourably steward the land to provide food for their nation.
Lord have mercy on these nations where violence and hatred have held sway, destroying the people and the very land. Bring conviction to those who are using their power to abuse, especially those from other countries. Forgive us for our blindness and indifference during the years of conflict and drought. Cause Your Church to rise up and take godly action to bring relief to those so desperately in need. Bless Your people in these nations and give them provision and grace – and the ability to be generous to their neighbours. Break the power of darkness and bring your light. Have mercy, Father.