Latter-day Saint Charities and the World Food Programme partner to aid global pandemic relief efforts

Continuing a six-year partnership, Latter-day Saint Charities recently allocated $2 million of a $4.5 million donation to the World Food Programme to fund the organization’s new “hub and spoke” system — a global distribution network for food and medical supplies — set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The WFP “hub and spoke” system consists of eight hubs strategically located “because of their proximity to major commercial air freight and key manufacturers in the health-care industry,” explained Samantha Butterworth, director of content and messaging for Welfare and Self-Reliance Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

A map highlights the countries in which the WFP houses its hub network around the world.
A map highlights the countries in which the WFP houses its hub network around the world. Credit: Mary Archbold, Deseret News

The WFP’s hub network — three global hubs located in Belgium, the United Arab Emirates and China, and five regional hubs located in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Malaysia and Panama — was built on pre-existing United Nations Humanitarian Response Depots to “dispatch vital medical and humanitarian cargo and transport health workers to the front lines of the pandemic,” particularly on the African continent.

A look at how the partnership between the World Food Programme and Latter-day Saint Charities is helping solve world hunger

It is a system very similar to the one the Church uses in the U.S. to respond to natural disasters like the recent Hurricane Laura. By strategically pre-positioning supplies at locations nearby to areas likely to face disaster, the process of distributing aid is quicker and more efficient.

As Richard Long, the welfare and self-reliance manager for the Church’s North America Southeast Area, noted in the Church News’ recent coverage of Hurricane Laura, stake and area leaders mobilize as soon as they learn of potential storms or disasters to ensure that local storehouses are stocked with inventory to handle the immediate needs of coming disasters. 

Meeting the global needs of the pandemic

Staff and Passengers of UNHAS prepare for a flight and check in on April 5, 2020 at Kabul International Airport. All staff and passengers' body temperature is taken upon entering the UNHAS terminal and they wash hands and disinfect before entering the check in building prior to boarding the plane as precautions against the coronavirus.
Staff and Passengers of UNHAS prepare for a flight and check in on April 5, 2020 at Kabul International Airport. All staff and passengers’ body temperature is taken upon entering the UNHAS terminal and they wash hands and disinfect before entering the check in building prior to boarding the plane as precautions against the coronavirus. Credit: Jorge Diaz, WFP

The $2 million donation from Latter-day Saint Charities to the WFP is helping ensure the global and regional hubs are able to move life-saving humanitarian cargo and health-care workers to countries in need during the pandemic. 

“These transportation hubs not only facilitate the WFP’s ability to effectively deliver food to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also improve the logistics of other humanitarian organizations who have been able to use these same networks to deliver other life-saving items to those in need,” said Shawn M. Johnson, director of humanitarian services within the Church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Services Department.

The WFP’s “hub and spoke” network has moved 45,000 tons of COVID-19-related items — such as personal protective equipment and other medical supplies — and other humanitarian cargo to more than 160 countries in recent months. And roughly 18,000 volunteers and staff from aid organizations have been transported through the WFP network of aircrafts, ships and trucks. Such efforts have been critical to mitigating the disruptions of vital global supply chains and commercial transport systems caused by the pandemic. 

Power in partnership

As a United Nations agency, the WFP operates in more than 80 countries, feeding people and sending supplies to those caught in areas of conflict or natural disasters. 

“Because of their role in the United Nations, the World Food Programme is in a unique position to collaborate with multiple entities, such as governments, NGOs, and faith-based organizations,” said Bryant Pankratz, senior manager of emergency response and refugee services for the Church. “Their coordination creates synergies that allow other organizations to operate efficiently and without duplication. Aid organizations are also able to leverage the WFP’s expertise and logistical systems to reduce costs.”

Partners like the WFP are essential for the Church because they can reach areas that the Church alone cannot, explained Sister Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. “[The WFP has] a presence in places where we have no members of the Church, in places like Yemen, Somalia — places that are conflict-ridden.” 

Medical supplies to protect against COVID-19 are unloaded in Antananarivo, Madagascar, from a UN "Solidarity Flight" from the WFP Humanitarian Air Hub in Addis Ababa on April 15, 2020.
Medical supplies to protect against COVID-19 are unloaded in Antananarivo, Madagascar, from a UN “Solidarity Flight” from the WFP Humanitarian Air Hub in Addis Ababa on April 15, 2020. Credit: Patrick Sautron, WFP

Speaking of the importance of the Church’s long standing partnership with the WFP, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric said, “What we can provide reaches out farther than it would otherwise without someone like [the WFP]. We’re grateful for the help that they provide.”

WFP Executive Director David Beasley noted that the Church is one of the WFP’s largest nongovernmental partners. Through their collaboration, the organizations work to “provide all the things that are needed out there in the field to help people stay alive and keep the economies going as well,” he said.

Extending pandemic relief efforts 

The remaining $2.5 million from the Church’s recent $4.5 million donation to the WFP is helping fund the WFP’s Feeding School Children in Somalia project

When schools in Somalia closed in April 2020 following the first cases of COVID-19 in the country, many schoolchildren were left without the means to obtain the food through the school system on which they typically rely.

With the help of the Latter-day Saint Charities donation, WFP Somalia is using its e-Shop app to provide five months of food to some 35,323 Somalian schoolchildren.

Workers at Saafi Supermarket load orders that have been received via the WFP e-shopping app to be delivered to beneficiaries, in Mogadishu Somalia on April 2, 2020. WFP Somalia works with partners to provide food and nutrition to vulnerable populations.
Workers at Saafi Supermarket load orders that have been received via the WFP e-shopping app to be delivered to beneficiaries, in Mogadishu Somalia on April 2, 2020. WFP Somalia works with partners to provide food and nutrition to vulnerable populations. Credit: Ismail Taxta, WFP

“With this contribution [from Latter-day Saint Charities], we will be able to prevent devastating nutrition and health consequences for the children currently missing out on their daily meals amid school closures,” said WFP Somalia country director and representative Cesar Arroyo. “Under normal circumstances, school feeding means a lot to Somali schoolchildren [and] their families and communities. It means protection from hunger, poverty and early marriage. It also means an increase in enrollment and learning, creating a generation of better-educated Somalis and a bright future for Somalia.” 

Read more about the WFP’s Feeding School Children in Somalia project here.