West Africa faces quickly escalating crisis
Rain shortages have left people without food. Terrorist groups like Boko Haram have burned and looted farms throughout Nigeria, Chad, and Niger, adding to the food shortage and leaving people fearing for their lives. Government corruption has compounded the problem.
“You have this convergence of these two factors, and then you have the political crisis in…these different countries which is affected by corruption,” Christian Aid Mission Overseas Director David Bogosian says. “Humanitarian organizations are trying to bring aid to these groups, but it’s not getting to the people because of corruption, so it’s a huge mess that’s affecting millions of people.”
Christian Aid works with numerous partners in the most affected regions of West Africa. Bogosian says they’re being overwhelmed by those desperate for help.
“One ministry we work with in the northeast part of Nigeria is right there in the heart of Boko Haram territory,” Bogosian says. “So they’ve had to pull missionaries from out of the field. They’ve had an influx of refugees coming into their mission centers. They have women and children who have gone through unspeakable horrors that they’re now having to basically drop everything in order to minister to these kids and to the women.
“The women need counseling. They’ve been raped, they’ve lost their husbands. The children have seen incredible trauma and they need trauma counseling. So these ministries are basically in crisis mode. They’re having to deal with things that are way beyond their capacity to deal with. And so we’re trying to rush assistance to them, and meanwhile, things are changing daily. The situation is so dynamic.”
While much of Africa’s mainstream media coverage is focused on a similar situation in East Africa — what the UN has called potentially the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II — the situation in West Africa is only getting worse.
“I think that people, to some extent, and maybe in general with news media, they kind of operate in news cycles,” Bogosian says. “West Africa got in the news because of the Ebola crisis. That was the news cycle for a while, and then they kind of moved on. Meanwhile, though, the situation in West Africa is going from bad to worse.”
Christian Aid helps send food, rebuild shelters, and provide education. Bogosian says the aid is serving as a platform to share the Gospel, and the crisis has opened people’s hearts to new ways of thinking.
“Groups like Boko Haram and groups like al-Qaeda who are operating in Northern Mali are basically opening up people’s eyes to what Islam is all about,” Bogosian says. “So by bringing humanitarian assistance along with the Scriptures, the Bible is having a huge impact in this area because the Bible is so different from what they’ve been exposed to.
“Basically, people in Muslim areas, they memorize the Quran but they don’t know what it means. So they go to these madrasas, they go to these schools, they memorize things in Arabic but they have no idea what it means. Then along comes the Word of God, the Gospel.
“The Gospel is so powerful for the Islamic context because Jesus is speaking. In many cases, he’s speaking to the same type of system that Islam is. When he’s talking to the pharisees, when He’s talking about these legalistic systems, it’s the exact same framework that Muslims are operating under, and so the Gospel can speak so powerfully into that situation to people who are in bondage and to people who are looking for freedom and truth.”
You won’t hear much about this crisis in the mainstream news, so it’s important to be intentional about staying informed. Remember also to pray for courage and peace for believers in this region. You can support Christian Aid’s work financially by clicking here.