Displaying items by tag: crisis
The World Bank has extended another year of financial aid to Lebanon despite political bickering. Inflation reached 206% in April, Lebanon’s currency dropped yet again last week, and Heart for Lebanon reports shortages of everything from electricity to fuel to bread. Everything costs more, and 78% of the population needs some kind of food assistance to survive. They are becoming more desperate every day. Divisions are deepening among the newly-elected parliament members. Fighting between parties that are for and against Hezbollah is taking priority over much-needed reform. People are looking for answers. They are turning to God in record numbers. Heart for Lebanon and local churches provide food and encouragement to families, showing them the love of Christ before telling them about the love of Christ. Ask God to strengthen and encourage Lebanese believers. They are staying put to care for people in need, instead of leaving the country to benefit themselves.
In late April, North Korea confirmed its first Covid cases and suspended overland trade with China (which had been resumed in January) after a surge of Chinese cases. The reclusive nation has repeatedly shunned international offers of vaccines, and has been forced into two years of strict isolation to stop the pandemic from crippling the already weak healthcare system. But blocking commerce with China, their largest trade partner, has upset an economy damaged by decades of mismanagement and punishing international sanctions. A serious lack of rainfall in the second worst drought since records began is disrupting farming and food supplies. Despite alarm over Omicron spreading, Kim Jong-Un has ordered scheduled construction, agricultural development and other state projects to continue, decreeing that ‘single-minded public unity is the most powerful guarantee that can win in this anti-pandemic fight.’
Price increases are making it tougher for households to make ends meet, and unlicensed lenders offer loans to the desperate at astronomical interest rates. Last year the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) researched 3,363 people. One in forty were borrowing from unlicensed lenders. CSJ thinks there are about a million people in England doing this. ‘Overwhelmingly, people borrow when they're desperate. For everyday costs of living, like a gas or electricity bill, or a pram, and then they get exploited by those seeking to extort them for as much money as they can get out of them, offering arbitrary terms, little to no paperwork and an extortionate repayment rate.’ ‘It's just endless,’ one victim said: 'I went from a £150 loan to owing £6,000 in months'. The CSJ report highlights separate data from 1,252 victims, questioned last year by the Illegal Money Lending Team, which prosecutes loan sharks in England. The figures suggest the borrowers are among the poorest in society.
The Horn of Africa is in crisis with drought and food insecurity. 20 million are impacted or in need of aid; pray for the survival needs of both livestock and humans to be met after three failed rainy seasons back to back. In Somalia 4.3 million people are hungry, and people fear a repeat of the 2012 famine. In Ethiopia, the drought is compounding the humanitarian disaster of the war in the country’s north, while in neighbouring Kenya’s pastoralist zone, the loss of cattle is triggering raids and clashes between communities. In Myanmar farmers say the 2021 coup worsened food insecurity and is nothing short of a disaster. Humanitarian needs multiply and continue to spiral. One million people needed aid before the coup; now it’s 14 million. 500,000 people have been displaced since the coup, a quarter of the population is food insecure and violent new conflicts spread in a new wave of anti-coup militias. ‘There is fear everywhere’, one aid worker said.
A storm battering Australia, described as a rain bomb, began flooding the Brisbane area on 27 February and damaged 15,000 properties before moving south. New South Wales river towns were under water the next day, with Wilsons River rising 14.46 metres. A flotilla of private boats rescued residents trapped in flooded homes. Authorities were overwhelmed by the scale of the rescue operation. On 1 March military helicopters airlifted stranded people from rooftops of flooded neighbourhoods in eastern Australia and then the wild weather slowly moved south. By 3 March half a million people across NSW were under evacuation orders. Warragamba Dam west of Sydney was spilling 225 gigalitres a day, which meant that thousands of households and businesses could avoid damaging flooding from the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers north-west of Sydney. Pray for threatened communities to be safe as river levels continue rising. Pray for the 11,747 families who have requested help from military and other rescue services since the crisis began.
With the first steps towards a democratic government in 2019, Tunisians hoped their political institutions and politicians would respond to the needs of the population. The Arab Spring called its leaders to account, looking for diversity and accountability. President Kais Saied was elected. They wanted democracy, but it takes time. On 25 July, after nationwide violent protests over economic and social turmoil and the government's poor handling of Covid cases, Tunisia's president sacked the prime minister and suspended parliament. When Saied announced he was taking over, opponents immediately accused him of staging a coup. Sadly, Arab Spring has not led to a stable economy or politics. Saied said he took these decisions ‘until social peace returns and we save the state.’ He vowed to respond to further violence with military force.
UNICEF is underscoring the need for continual aid for children amid a worsening situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Five months since the conflict began, a picture is emerging of killings and sexual violence against women and children. UNICEF reports schools and health centres looted, vandalised, and occupied by armed groups. In addition, deliberate attacks of violence and looting have left 60% of health care facilities not operational. 57% of boreholes (providing water) in 13 towns are not functional, and a quarter of the region’s schools have sustained damage. Although UNICEF and partners give humanitarian aid to the needy, there are urgent needs for children’s protection. Fighting, media blackout, and government-imposed restrictions leave humanitarian organisations unable to provide adequate aid, and they have had difficulty accurately gauging the need. Basic service outlets must be protected and the safety and security of everyone working in and accessing those services guaranteed.
Last month you prayed for compassionate provisions for refugees (see). Now Tony Smith, the former head of UK Border Force, said that if the UK and France fail to agree joint Channel patrols, arrivals will reach crisis levels. He said, ‘They need to agree a treaty with a joint patrol where migrants picked up in the Channel can be returned to France to have asylum claims considered there. What I'm advocating is we try as best we can to replicate the juxtaposed controls for legitimate applicants in the same way as for illegitimate applicants. Over 200 migrants managed to cross to Britain in twenty boats in one day. If they want to come to the UK they need to make their case on the French side, and if they are found in the waterways or even make it as far as Dover we say, “I'm sorry but you go back there and that's where you will be interviewed and processed, on the French side”.’
In Central America, people will struggle to eat in today’s lockdown; unable to provide for themselves and their families with food banks closed due to pandemic lockdowns. Pray for God to support those who are providing aid to families in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other vulnerable countries. India has a social stigma around the ‘unclean’ disease, so individuals returning from isolation are treated as outcasts. To avoid being labelled and discriminated against people hide the illness, avoid tests and delay hospitalisation, with fatal consequences. Pray for this ‘unclean pandemic caste’ to be helped and healed not shunned. Africa’s virus is spreading rapidly. Rural areas in Tanzania have no food, and people like the cattle people in Kajiado (who depend on livestock markets) suffer because all markets are closed. Meanwhile, some Caribbean islands are now reopening for tourism with strict public health protocols. Pray for safe ‘sun, sea, sand and social distancing.’
‘As soon as the outbreak of the virus was announced, we stopped all our face-to-face meetings,’ says a secret Iranian believer. ‘In this time of crisis, we have had more than ten hours of prayer meetings every day. We created a special prayer schedule that we call “Frontline”, where prayer members can virtually walk in and out to come to pray together.’ Open Doors partners gave them online resources. But their situation is dire. Inflation is so high that people cannot afford to buy meat, poultry, or fruit. In these dark times for the country, the underground church is shining brightly. They share their food and sanitary items with their communities. Church members feel blessed to be able to do this work: ‘The distribution was a fabulous and unbelievable experience. People were astonished when we gave them the food - praising God with thanksgiving psalms, crying, hugging, and shouting.’