COVID-19 has torn its way around the world, infecting millions of people, sending countries into lockdown and causing many to lose their jobs. The preventative measures to decrease its spread—handwashing, physical distancing and mask-wearing—often aren’t possible for those experiencing poverty.

In developing countries, such as Sierra Leone, running water is rare, multiple generations might live under one roof and there is no option to work from home.

The ELCA is responding by working with its global-companion churches to provide food, health care and other essential resources to people in need.

In Sierra Leone, Lutheran Disaster Response partners with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone (ELCSL) to provide handwashing stations for households and public spaces and to train leaders to disseminate important information about COVID-19 prevention. The church has also equipped the Moyamba District emergency operations center with hygiene materials, including locally produced masks.

“I am glad to see the ELCSL being the first church to embark on emergency response in the [Moyamba District] where I work,” said Juliana M’bayeilla, a head nurse. “As a Lutheran, that makes me very proud, and I pray for more opportunities and the pandemic to end.”

In Sierra Leone, running water is rare, multiple generations might live under one roof and there is no option to work from home.

Moses Kobba Momoh, ELCSL bishop, said Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35-36 have inspired the church’s response: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

This commitment to care is clear to the communities that the ELCSL accompanies. “The ELCSL has always been the first responder whenever we are faced with an emergency situation,” said Pa Alimamy Kargbo, chief of the John Thorpe Community. “This time around, as usual, we were sensitized through training on the impact of the pandemic and how [people] can [protect] themselves and support the community to be active in cascading the information on COVID-19.”

Long-standing relationships with global companions such as the ELCSL allow the ELCA, through Lutheran Disaster Response, to work quickly and effectively in responding to natural disasters, human conflicts or health crises.

Learn more

In response to COVID-19, Lutheran Disaster Response has funded work in more than 30 countries and the global response of the Lutheran World Federation and ACT Alliance. In the United States that includes supporting synods and congregational feeding ministries. Learn more at elca.org/ldr and elca.org/publichealth.

Alex Baird
Baird is communications manager, ELCA World Hunger and disaster response.

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