Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Response to Humanitarian Crises in the Horn of Africa

By Elliott Wright and Bella DiFilippo* 

Civil strife and famine in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, are tearing thousands of people from their homes, leading to starvation and lack of access to clean water. Countless refugees are pouring into neighboring countries as worsening ethnic conflicts and power struggles deepen the local crisis caused by severe drought in those adjoining lands. 

The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, through its disaster relief and global health units, is attempting to alleviate some of the suffering in cooperation with regional partner agencies. UNICEF (the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) reported in early March that an estimated 100,000 South Sudanese are starving and 1 million people face starvation. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that 4.7 million South Sudanese are in need of health services.

Women Carrying Water.jpgWomen Carrying Water. PHOTO: JAMES AKENA FOR REUTERS 

South Sudan, which celebrated its independence in 2011, has faced internal conflict for almost four years. There is fighting between government and militia groups, and between the two main ethnic groups--the Dinka and Nuer peoples. Persistent violence is considered a major cause of famine, starvation and lack of access to clean water, hampering humanitarian attempts to provide relief. 

Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan are suffering the effects of war in South Sudan as desperate refugees cross into their territories. In the meantime, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are also struggling with drought conditions. Global Ministries is reaching out to Sudanese in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is also targeting general famine conditions in Somalia and Ethiopia. One grant will provide food vouchers to 4,000 families in Somalia, while the other will provide 6,000 persons with clean water in drought-affected areas of Ethiopia. The total amount of the two grants is $173,088.

Fetching Water.jpgFetching Water. PHOTO: JAMES AKENA FOR REUTERS 

The global health unit is providing funding for two other active projects assisting South Sudanese living in Ugandan refugee camps. These programs allow teams to bring medical services to the camps. A total of $232,016 has been allocated for this work to date. 

“Trying to overcome drought is a bit like fighting a fire that hops around and restarts in different locations,” says Jack Amick, senior director of UMCOR. “If we are not able to fight the fire in South Sudan, we can fight it in other places in the region. In a sense, we are both helping people who have been burned and also preventing others from getting burned.”

To support UMCOR’s response to the crisis in South Sudan and the surrounding region, please donate to the International Disaster Relief Response Advance #982450. Learn more about UMCOR by visiting and following and

* Elliott Wright is information consultant for Global Ministries, Bella Difilippo is Program Area Liaison, Communications for Global Ministries.