Aid call for 'worst humanitarian crisis since WWII'
THE Catholic Church is holding a national collection next week to help fund life-saving aid for some of the 25 million people facing hunger in east Africa.
The United Nations has described the situation in the drought-ravaged region as the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia are among the places affected and which will benefit from the collection on July 22 and 23, with the money raised going to support Trócaire projects in the region.
Severe drought, driven by climate change, is currently blighting east Africa and this has resulted in failed harvests and the widespread death of livestock.
Conflict has exacerbated the effects in South Sudan and Somalia, with areas in both countries now on the verge of famine.
Archbishop of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin urged parishioners to support the collection, which would go towards Trócaire's emergency food, water and health care schemes.
"With the failure of successive rains and a prolonged drought having taken hold of the region, just surviving has now become the main challenge facing people in large parts of east Africa," he said.
"Millions of people in the region are facing starvation. The crops have failed and animals are dying because of a lack of grazing and water.
"The large number of people affected may shock us, but we must realise that behind these stark numbers are real people: mothers and fathers unable to provide for their hungry children."
Dr Martin said that although the Catholic Church was already working to respond to the crisis through Trócaire, the need was so enormous that the special collections were needed.
Bishop William Crean, the Bishop of Cloyne and chairman of Trócaire, said Trócaire's health centres in Somalia are already treating around 19,000 people each month for malnutrition and associated illnesses.
"With the support of parishioners here at home in the coming weeks, many tens of thousands more people will receive help," he said.
"For example, over 13,000 children in Kenya will receive supplementary high-energy food, new boreholes will be provided for communities, many more people will receive monthly food rations and schools will be supplied with water."
Dr Crean contrasted the lack of attention that the east Africa crisis has received with the focus placed on some political figures.
"Globally, this crisis has received very little attention," he said.
"Appeals for aid are under-funded. For example, the United Nations has received just 37 per cent of the funding it needs to respond to the crisis in Somalia.
"The world is distracted by the actions of a handful of powerful politicians, while in east Africa millions suffer in silence.
"It is unacceptable for so many to go hungry."
Donations to Trócaire's east Africa hunger crisis appeal can be made at www.trocaire.org or by phoning 0800 912 1200 (Northern Ireland) or 1850 408 408 (Republic of Ireland).