The tally tells a tale of a world in need and a church with the means and ability to help:
• 316,790 people got cleaner water and better sanitation.
• 181,398 people received greater food security.
• 129,819 people were provided with vision care.
• 83,555 people underwent maternal and newborn care.
• 52,381 people got wheelchairs.
Those numbers represent a sizable slice of the aid rendered by the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to the organization’s 2019 Annual Report, released Monday.
“This assistance," church President Russell M. Nelson said during last fall’s General Conference, “is offered to recipients regardless of their church affiliation, nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender or political persuasion.”
In all, Latter-day Saint Charities assisted in 142 countries and territories last year, including emergency efforts in more than 60 places around the world.
For instance, the agency helped — and is still helping — after cyclones wiped out crops in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
“When you see some of the big responses that happened last year like the cyclone in Mozambique, the famine responses, the work we did around different hurricanes and things like that, the core principle is to get on the ground and find out what people need right now and what they will need later on. And then we can work to fill in those gaps,” Latter-day Saint Charities President Sharon Eubank explained in a news release. “The annual report reflects some of the more intensive work we’ve done on the ground, finding out what’s the real need.”
The organization also helps with immunizations, refugees and a range of community projects.
It has been especially focused in the fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus. The World Health Organization has announced that the life-threatening disease that affects women of childbearing age and their offspring was wiped out in Congo and Chad last year. A decade ago, tetanus still posed a considerable risk for women giving birth in nearly 60 nations. That number is down to 12.
The church’s humanitarian outreach has become a touchy topic after a “whistleblower” complaint accused the faith of amassing a $100 billion rainy day fund from contributions intended — but never spent — for charity.
Monday’s annual report did not put a dollar amount on the assistance provided in 2019. But the news release noted that donations to Latter-day Saint Charities represent “only a small part” of the church’s overall humanitarian and welfare expenditures, which amount to nearly $1 billion a year.
Since its 1985 birth, it added, Latter-day Saint Charities has supplied more than $2.3 billion worth of assistance in 197 countries. That figure was pegged at $2.2 billion in 2018.
“The annual report is part of our accountability back to the Latter-day Saints who have donated to the humanitarian fund on the tithing slip,” Eubank, who also serves as first counselor in the general presidency of the women’s Relief Society, said in the release. “This is part of our reporting back to the people who have given so much, so that they can see what their donations do.”