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Lutheran World Relief Responds to Growing Food Crisis in Niger

Contact: Emily Sollie, Lutheran World Relief, 410-230-2802, 443-220-3269 cell, esollie@lwr.org

BALTIMORE, June 26 /Christian Newswire/ -- Lutheran World Relief (LWR) has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to address Niger's growing food crisis. With the $949,959 grant, LWR will work with more than 40,000 people in the rural Kalfou municipality to meet immediate needs for food as well as reduce their vulnerability to future crises.

Landlocked and drought-prone, Niger is one of the world's poorest countries. This spring, Niger's government confirmed the critical situation, finding nearly half of the country's population to be food insecure. Drought has severely affected crop production, and increased prices have made the food that is available in markets out of reach for the poorest families. Most rural communities have already depleted whatever food they had in reserve, and will not harvest again until October. Many families that raise small livestock have sold their animals so they can buy grain, leaving them without a source of milk or meat in their diets or a future source of income.

LWR's approach, built on experience successfully responding to a similar crisis in Niger in 2005, will address the immediate emergency needs while also laying the groundwork for a sustainable future, equipping rural communities to break the cycle of recurring food crises.

A cash-for-work program for 27,000 people will put much-needed money in the hands of rural families, providing cash in exchange for labor to rehabilitate dams and wells and build structures for soil and water conservation. The money that families earn will enable them to buy food now to get them through the "hungry season," and the work they do on water systems and soil conservation will help improve their agricultural yields in the future and make them less vulnerable to future droughts.

In addition to the cash-for-work program, LWR will also provide goats and sheep to help restock depleted herds. LWR will work within the traditional habbanaye system, working through local women's associations to manage and coordinate the distribution of 1,500 animals in addition to training on animal husbandry. The program will also establish five community-run feed banks to ensure year-round access to animal feed.

"We are thrilled to continue and expand our relationship with the Gates Foundation to fund this initiative to address the immediate food security needs and long-term recovery for the families affected by this crisis in Niger," said Tim McCully, LWR's vice president for international programs. "In everything we do at LWR, we are working to build resilient communities. This means not just providing emergency aid, but working side by side with communities to put them on a track for a better future."

WHO IS LWR? Lutheran World Relief, an international nonprofit organization, works to end poverty and injustice by empowering some of the world's most impoverished communities to help themselves. With partners in 35 countries, LWR seeks to promote sustainable development with justice and dignity by helping communities bring about change for healthy, safe and secure lives; engage in Fair Trade; promote peace and reconciliation; and respond to emergencies. LWR is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and has worked in international development and relief since 1945.

Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), individuals and parish groups in international relief, development, advocacy and social responsibility.