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A solidarity without pauses

· New aid from the Pope for the peoples of the Horn of Africa ·

There has been an emergency situation in the Horn of Africa for a few weeks now.

Yes, the situation still has not been resolved, because objectively speaking, it is the consequence of a series of problems which are all connected. On the one hand, there is the problem of the drought, which has generated famine. On the other hand, the conflict in Somalia has forced the exodus of thousands of people into territories that are already in difficulty. There are refugees who leave their countries for neighboring ones and there are internally displaced persons. It will take much time before a phenomenon of this type finds a solution. We are speaking of around 4 and a half million people in need in Ethiopia and almost 4 million in Kenya. Not to mention the numbers in Somalia, and in Djibouti - although there the situation is more contained.

How is the international community reacting?

Some of the countries involved have been experiencing humanitarian and political crises for years now, which has forced the action of the United Nations, its agencies and some governments. Even now, the presence of the international community is guaranteed but it seems to me that we must keep the world’s attention on the situation because the financial crisis tends to occupy the majority of news.

Can you describe how the Church is helping these populations?

The Holy Father was among the first to underscore the seriousness of the situation in the Angelus on July 17th. He said that there was a need to intervene to defend and support a population in great difficulty. Through Cor Unum , aid has been delivered in the name of the Holy Father first to Somalia, and now in the last few days to five dioceses in Kenya and six in Ethiopia, that are also dealing with the humanitarian emergency with few means at their disposal.

In this regard, it would be good to mention that the actions of the institutions of the Church in this crisis operate on different levels. The most direct one is the on-the-ground reception and support of people in their immediate needs. This work is done directly by the dioceses and local communities, despite their small resources. But I want to highlight how these Churches in Africa immediately and generously reacted to different needs. There are also more detailed programs, carried out by Caritas Internationalis in collaboration with major Caritas organizations. They are currently being defined and involve an economic commitment of several million dollars. Then there is the assistance of many smaller Catholic organizations that are present in the places of emergency. Finally, we should not forget the many Catholics who offer their money, but also their prayers, for their brothers and sisters in need in the Horn of Africa. Every day we receive messages of support for those who are suffering this serious crisis.

The presence of the Church in these areas is permanent and the Church, especially, has the trust of the people. Normally, our aid programs are carried out in collaboration with the civil authorities.

What are the primary needs right now?

From the reports that we receive, I can tell you that in this phase we have to think of the essentials: food, water, health kits, receiving people in the camps. Without forgetting those who are literally suffering hunger, provoked by the famine, caused by the drought. Local populations, especially, are suffering from this. We are hopeful, however, that with the help of many and the attention of the international authorities we can alleviate such suffering. The Church, as always, is actively doing its part.

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