FEBRUARY 1, 2021
The year 2020 saw numerous natural disasters and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses helped those affected?
During the 2020 service year,a the Coordinators’ Committee of the Governing Body approved spending 28 million dollarsb on disaster relief. This provided relief for victims of over 200 disasters—including the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple tropical cyclones, flooding in Africa, food shortages in Venezuela, and drought in Zimbabwe. The donated funds helped pay for food, water, shelter, clothing, and medical care, as well as basic supplies for cleaning, repairs, and reconstruction. Consider a few examples of the relief work.
COVID-19. All over the world, the pandemic affected our brothers and sisters physically, emotionally, and economically. To help them, over 800 Disaster Relief Committees (DRCs) were formed worldwide. These committees monitored our brothers’ needs and provided prompt reports that helped the Coordinators’ Committee know how best to direct the relief.
Throughout the year, DRCs helped many to obtain food, water, items for sanitation, and basic medicine. In some areas, DRCs also worked with local elders to help brothers access government aid.
Non-Witnesses have noticed our relief work. For example, Field Simwinga, the district commissioner for Nakonde, Zambia, told our brothers: “We are indebted for your timely provision of much-needed relief to the affected families.”
Food Shortages in Angola. The COVID-19 pandemic affected food supplies in Angola and raised prices significantly. Many of our brothers and sisters found it increasingly difficult to buy food.
The Brazil branch was asked to help by sending kits of food to our Angolan brothers. To make the best use of relief funds, food and logistic options were carefully researched and the food was bought in bulk. Thus, each kit cost an average of only $22 to purchase and ship but contained almost 20 kilograms (44 lb) of food items such as rice, beans, and cooking oil. To date, 33,544 kits have been shipped—a total of 654 metric tons (721 U.S. tons). Combined with local items, these provisions helped feed more than 50,000 people!
How do our brothers feel about this relief? Alexandre, who lives in an isolated part of Angola, says: “I see this as evidence that Jehovah loves me and that I am not alone. I am valued by Jehovah’s organization!” Mariza, a single mother, says: “Jehovah heard my cry. I thank him and his organization!”
Drought Relief for Zimbabwe. During the 2020 service year, Zimbabwe faced a severe drought, leaving millions of people on the brink of starvation. Thousands of Witnesses in Zimbabwe lacked sufficient food.
Five DRCs were formed to help provide food for our brothers. Hundreds of publishers assisted by packaging food, loading supplies, or lending their vehicles.c During the 2020 service year, $691,561 was used to help feed more than 22,700 people!
In some cases, brothers had exhausted their own food supplies by the time the relief arrived. When the food arrived, our brothers praised Jehovah. Some even began singing Kingdom songs.
In one area, two widowed Witnesses attended a community meeting organized to discuss the food relief being offered by a nongovernmental organization (NGO). However, the meeting became increasingly political, so the sisters decided that they could not accept the conditions for receiving aid. As they left the meeting, they were mocked and told, “Don’t come looking for a meal from us!” However, just two weeks later, our brothers reached the area and provided our sisters with food relief—well before the NGO relief arrived!
Disaster relief in Zimbabwe has also resulted in a good witness. For example, consider the experience of Prisca, who lives in a small village. Despite the difficulties brought on by the drought, Prisca devoted each Wednesday and Friday to the ministry, even during plowing season. People in her village ridiculed her, saying: “You are going to starve your family because of your preaching.” Prisca would reply: “Jehovah has never failed his servants.” Not long after that, she received relief supplies from our organization. This impressed some of her neighbors, who told Prisca: “God has never failed you, so we want to learn more about him.” Seven neighbors are now listening to congregation meetings that are broadcast on radio.
As we get closer to the end, we will continue to face natural disasters. (Matthew 24:3, 7) Your generous donations made via the different methods found on donate.jw.org are greatly appreciated. They provide timely and effective relief.
a The 2020 service year includes the months of September 2019 through August 2020.
b All dollar amounts in this article refer to U.S. dollars.
c Because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, our brothers had to obtain permits to deliver food. They also took precautions to reduce their own risk of exposure to the virus.