The staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries have directed several grants from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to COVID-19 responses by sister churches and groups in Haiti, Spain, and Ecuador, as well as to response to flooding in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A grant of $35,000 supports Eglise des Freres d’ Haiti (the Church of the Brethren in Haiti) in its response to COVID-19. Although as of April 23 the Johns Hopkins Dashboard shows only 62 confirmed cases and 4 deaths in Haiti, the virus is just starting to spread in the country. The government officially shut down businesses, gatherings, and travel on March 19, but is not enforcing closures in all areas. Many Haitians continue to sell goods on streets or to work to support their families. In urban areas Haitians live in cramped conditions with large extended families, adding to fears of rapid spreading of COVID-19. Eglise des Freres reports the government stay-at-home order affects most Haitians who work daily to feed their families, stating simply, “More people are starving with the coming of COVID-19 in the country.” Church leadership has developed a proposal to provide 800 of the most vulnerable families in their congregations and surrounding communities with three months of food distributions, supplemented by face masks, soap, and other cleaning supplies.
A grant of $14,000 has been given for COVID-19 response by Iglesia de los Hermanos–Una Luz En Las Naciones (the Church of the Brethren in Spain). Spain has been one of the countries most affected by the pandemic, with more than 230,000 confirmed cases and nearly 24,000 deaths as of the time of the grant request. The country has been in a state of emergency since March 15, raising unemployment numbers to 3.5 million workers or 14.4 percent of eligible workers. Leaders of the seven congregations of the Church of the Brethren in Spain report that many of their members are single parents or single-income homes, unable to work because of the shutdown. The most vulnerable are working as maids, part-time municipal building cleaners, nannies, or providing childcare. Being recent immigrants or temporary workers, some church members are not eligible for unemployment or any other COVID-19 relief funding to help with their bills or purchasing food.
An allocation of $6,000 supports a program of Fundacion Brethren y Unida (FBU) to address food needs in Ecuador, where the pandemic and government mitigation measures are creating hardships for many and limiting access to food for those most at risk. Prior to this crisis, Ecuador’s unemployment was nearly 40 percent of working-age people and nearly that many are living on less than $5 a day. FBU is one of the remaining institutions from Church of the Brethren mission work in past decades. It is a non-governmental organization focused on environmental education for youth. The Church of the Brethren’s Global Food Initiative manager Jeff Boshart serves on the FBU board of directors and FBU has received several GFI grants over the past three years. FBU has proposed three primary goals for a program responding to the pandemic: increased production of organic fruits, vegetables, and grains to address food needs in their region; providing emergency food assistance for four months to 40 families (160 people) living in extreme poverty; providing a training program of proper cleaning and disinfection of foods for other food producers.
Democratic Republic of Congo
An allocation of $20,000 supports the Church of the Brethren-related Shalom Ministries in its flood relief efforts. Heavy rainfall in the east provinces of the DRC on April 16-17 caused significant flooding, with the heaviest rain in South Kivu. The flooding left at least 36 dead, displaced more than 80,000 people, and damaged or destroyed 15,000 homes plus businesses, medical clinics, and seven bridges. Many more families lost all their stored food, household supplies, clothing, and bedding. Continuing rain has made relief efforts difficult and has closed roads. In the town of Uvira, the Mulongwe River flooded, causing the greatest damage in the region and affecting many Church of the Brethren members. The home of the local Church of the Brethren pastor, Ron Lubungo, was among those flooded. The grant will help Shalom Ministries provide household supplies to 500 households or about 4,000 people. Each family will receive a mattress, cooking pot, plates, cups, and silverware, combined with a tarp provided by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
For more information and to contribute financially to the ministry of the Emergency Disaster Fund go to www.brethren.org/edf .