‘Mothers are at the center of homes and communities’ — Why the LDS Church donated $55.8M

“When you bless a woman, you bless a family, a community, a nation,” says President Camille Johnson of fight against global hunger. “When you bless a child, you invest in the future.”

In one of its largest donations ever, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that it is giving $55.8 million to an expanded global effort to improve the health and well-being of women and young children.

And it is being led by the faith’s top female leaders.

The Utah-based church will team up with eight nonprofit organizations — CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Helen Keller Intl, iDE, MAP International, Save the Children, The Hunger Project and Vitamin Angels — that are recognized as industry leaders in the fight against malnutrition.

“Global progress starts with nourishing children and strengthening women,” President Camille Johnson, head of the church’s worldwide women’s Relief Society, said in a news release. “When you bless a woman, you bless a family, a community, a nation. When you bless a child, you invest in the future.”

Johnson noted the eight organizations have an “exceptional track record” of collaborating to improve maternal and child health.

“Our goal is to help them scale their work and bring women and children the much-needed health and nutrition services they need,” she said. “We are confident in their abilities and their proven results around the world.”

The Latter-day Saint funding will be shared among the eight organizations, the release said, “to support evidence-based health programs” by:

• Treating and preventing malnutrition in women, infants and young children.

• Providing maternal mental health care.

• Strengthening food systems.

The money will reach 12 million kids under 5 and 2.7 million expectant and new mothers, the release said, in the following countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

“Mothers are at the center of homes and communities around the world,” Johnson said in the release. “When they are healthy and can provide nutritious meals for their children, they thrive. As I travel throughout the world, I have seen firsthand how unique and different women’s realities are. However, all mothers have at least one thing in common: They want to feed their children so they can feed the future.”

Johnson’s two counselors in the General Relief Society Presidency cheered the news as they toured locations where the church is stepping up its help for vulnerable women and children.

In Accra, Ghana, first counselor J. Anette Dennis said she hopes this joint effort becomes a model others follow.

“It’s been so incredible,” she said, “to see these organizations that are so invested in child nutrition and mothers’ well-being.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Kristin Yee of the Relief Society General Presidency visits a woman and her baby a hospital in Guadalajara, Mexico, on June 7, 2024.

In Guadalajara, Mexico, second counselor Kristin Yee said she has “seen many sisters offer their very best to the Lord. They take care of those in their own homes, their communities and their neighborhoods.”

For its part, The Hunger Project is “honored” to be part of a partnership, said Tim Prewitt, the organization’s president and CEO, that seeks to “bring forward a vision of a hunger-free future where moms, children and their communities have the opportunity to thrive.”

The groups agree that the needs are dire. According to a 2023 United Nations report, more than 3 billion people globally cannot afford a healthy diet and are at risk of malnutrition, and approximately 148 million children under age 5 are stunted, or are too short for their age, and 45 million are underweight.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosts a nutrition clinic in Accra, Ghana, on June 1, 2024. Children were weighed and measured to check if they were at risk for malnutrition, and women were taught about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals.

“Scaling up cost-effective, proven nutrition services is essential to transforming the lives of mothers and children globally,” said Sarah Bouchie, CEO of Helen Keller Intl. “We are grateful for the extraordinary investment in nutrition from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The “investment” Bouchie said,” will help communities to create lasting change so that every child has the opportunity to grow up healthy.”