Two re­lief groups merg­ing

Bal­ti­more-based Lutheran World Re­lief to join with IMA

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger

Bal­ti­more-based Lutheran World Re­lief is merg­ing with a global health or­ga­ni­za­tion to broaden its reach in the im­pov­er­ished na­tions it serves from Latin Amer­ica to Africa, the Mid­dle East and Asia.

Daniel V. Speck­hard, a for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador who’s led Lutheran World Re­lief since 2014 and will lead the part­ner­ship, said to­gether the or­ga­ni­za­tions can help build and grow poor, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties by teach­ing the peo­ple in them how to feed and sup­port their fam­i­lies — and how to be­come health­ier.

The merger be­tween Lutheran World Re­lief and Wash­ing­ton-based IMA World Health is ef­fec­tive this month, form­ing a $140 mil­lion op­er­a­tion with 550 em­ploy­ees. The head­quar­ters will re­main in Bal­ti­more at 700 Light Street, but some op­er­a­tions will con­tinue in D.C.

The com­bined mis­sion, to sta­bi­lize peo­ple in their na­tive coun­tries, comes at a time when nearly 70 mil­lion peo­ple have been forcibly dis­placed from their homes due to vi­o­lence, per­se­cu­tion and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, and the mat­ter of im­mi­gra­tion has be­come po­lit­i­cally ex­plo­sive in the United States and Europe.

Set­ting pol­i­tics aside, Speck­hard sug­gested that the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s work could help stem the tide of im­mi­gra­tion.

“We need to be do­ing the work in these coun­tries that solves the prob­lem of ex­treme poverty and vi­o­lence and health chal­lenges, and that will help re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple who want to move to the U.S.,” Speck­hard said. “It is crit­i­cal to our own in­ter­ests be­yond the moral obli­ga­tion and hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism. Health chal­lenges know no bound­aries. Dan­ger­ous viruses can very eas­ily travel across bor­ders.

“The prob­lems that can em­anate from poor ar­eas can af­fect all of us.”

Lutheran World Re­lief was cre­ated in 1945 to help refugees in Europe after World War II. It grew into a roughly $50 mil­lion

or­ga­ni­za­tion with about 300 em­ploy­ees that works in 19 coun­tries, fo­cus­ing on dis­as­ter re­lief and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

IMA was es­tab­lished in New Wind­sor in 1960 as In­ter­church Med­i­cal As­sis­tance by an ec­u­meni­cal group, of which Lutheran World Re­lief was a found­ing mem­ber, said Rick San­tos, who has run IMA for about a decade. He is serv­ing as a se­nior ad­viser dur­ing the merger. IMA runs health pro­grams in six coun­tries with about $90 mil­lion.

The new or­ga­ni­za­tion will be called Lutheran World Re­lief-IMA World Health to main­tain iden­tity among the peo­ple served and donors. The or­ga­ni­za­tions will re­main sep­a­rate le­gal en­ti­ties un­til the merger is ap­proved by reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties. The staffs, which will be com­bined, are meet­ing weekly to work through the lo­gis­tics.

Join­ing forces will al­low the com­bined or­ga­ni­za­tion to serve com­mu­ni­ties more holis­ti­cally and bet­ter com­pete for pro­gram dol­lars, said Tanvi Nag­pal, di­rec­tor of the in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment pro­gram at the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies. By work­ing to­gether, they will also re­duce the bur­den on the com­mu­ni­ties they’re serv­ing and their gov­ern­ments by giv­ing them fewer out­siders and bu­reau­cra­cies to deal with, she said.

“They are both bring­ing, not just their ex­per­tise, but their val­ues to the same com­mu­nity — and are also re­duc­ing the cost of the host com­mu­nity,” Nag­pal said. “They im­prove their im­pact on the ground and the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits by not hav­ing to deal with two sep­a­rate en­ti­ties. To the ex­tent this al­lows these or­ga­ni­za­tions to reach more peo­ple, it’s a good thing.

“There is such a vast need for hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance in the world right now.”

IMA set out to find a part­ner more than two years ago, and Lutheran World Re­lief shared a sim­i­lar ap­proach in the global com­mu­ni­ties in which they serve, San­tos said. He said both or­ga­ni­za­tions are faith­based and work to build the ca­pac­ity of lo­cal part­ners, rather than cre­ate par­al­lel sys­tems.

The or­ga­ni­za­tions have worked to­gether fre­quently over the past half-cen­tury, he said. For ex­am­ple, IMA has di­rected more than $75 mil­lion in med­i­ca­tions and med­i­cal sup­plies to Lutheran World Re­lief for its out­reach.

The new part­ner­ship opens up more pos­si­bil­i­ties, San­tos said.

“We can be­gin to look at things a lit­tle more holis­ti­cally and ad­dress the whole per­son with our tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise in health and their’s in build­ing agri­cul­tural liveli­hoods,” he said. “If you look at work­ing with peo­ple to lift them out of poverty, it takes a multi-sec­tor ap­proach.”

Speck­hard said the value of a merger came into clear fo­cus for him when he was vis­it­ing Niger in West Africa, where Lutheran World Re­lief has worked for decades. As part of the out­reach, the or­ga­ni­za­tion had helped a com­mu­nity in a re­mote area cre­ate a liveli­hood for its peo­ple in­volv­ing sheep. But just as the fam­i­lies there were get­ting a foothold, some­one got sick and the fam­ily ended up spend­ing all of its pooled money on trans­porta­tion to get the sick per­son to a far­away health clinic, not even hav­ing enough to pay for the health care it­self.

“Whenyou travel over­seas and visit these im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties and the fam­i­lies who are re­ally strug­gling in their lives, you find it’s not re­ally a fair choice to say would you rather have food se­cu­rity or would you rather have health,” said Speck­hard, who will con­tinue to earn about $318,000 a year after the merger. “The re­al­ity is, these things are in­ter­twined.

“By com­ing to­gether we’re go­ing to be able to look more holis­ti­cally at the needs of the peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ties in a way that en­sures a more sus­tain­able and last­ing re­sult.”

Go­ing for­ward, Speck­hard said he wants the or­ga­ni­za­tion to in­cor­po­rate nu­tri­tion and health ed­u­ca­tion into ex­ist­ing pro­grams that teach ru­ral farm­ers how to earn a liv­ing. To­gether, the or­ga­ni­za­tions could teach farm­ers how to grow a mix of crops to sell and feed their fam­i­lies, the ben­e­fits of a broad diet and the im­por­tance of keep­ing some of the most nu­tri­tious veg­eta­bles for the chil­dren in the fam­ily.

Like­wise, Speck­hard said, he will visit Congo in the com­ing weeks, home to IMA’s largest pro­gram. While con­tin­u­ing to ad­dress Ebola out­breaks and of­fer health clin­ics, the or­ga­ni­za­tion can be­gin to in­tro­duce sys­tems to cre­ate liveli­hoods for ru­ral farm­ers, strength­en­ing farm co­op­er­a­tives and shar­ing new tech­niques for grow­ing and har­vest­ing crops.

Other up­com­ing projects in­clude im­prov­ing wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion to help thwart cholera in Haiti and of­fer­ing pe­di­atric and cer­vi­cal can­cer treat­ment in Tan­za­nia

Pa­tri­cia McIl­reavy, a vice pres­i­dent at In­ter­Ac­tion, an al­liance of non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, said more and more or­ga­ni­za­tions are join­ing to­gether to am­plify their reach through merg­ers and part­ner­ships.

Do­ing so can save ad­min­is­tra­tive costs by re­duc­ing du­pli­ca­tion, pro­vide an edge in com­pet­ing for gov­ern­ment and grant dol­lars by be­ing able to re­spond to a wider va­ri­ety of need and ap­peal to donors by com­mu­ni­cat­ing a holis­tic re­sponse to hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis, she said.

But the great­est ben­e­fit, she said, can be to the com­mu­ni­ties served. Rather than of­fer­ing a sin­gu­lar so­lu­tion to a com­mu­nity, hav­ing a va­ri­ety of in­ter­ven­tions through a part­ner­ship al­lows or­ga­ni­za­tions to re­spond to the most press­ing needs, McIl­reavy said.

“It’s about look­ing at the whole of an in­di­vid­ual and what it is that they need and be­ing pre­pared to be re­spon­sive to that,” McIl­reavy said. “How do we do bet­ter in our over­all goal to erad­i­cate poverty and help pop­u­la­tions rise up? How do we bet­ter sup­port to them?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.