Caritas support for drought-stricken East Africa

21/07/2011

On the brink of famine, the East Africa drought is the gravest humanitarian crisis in the world today, threatening to become worse than the devastating 1984-85 Ethiopian famine which killed millions.

According to Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot, at least of 10 million people are in dire need of immediate Australian and international assistance. In some areas up to 40 per cent of children under five are acutely malnourished and in danger of starvation.

“This is a matter of life and death for millions,” Mr de Groot said.

“There are 9,000 families every single week, fleeing Ethiopia and Somalia hoping they can find a safe place with food and water in refugee camps in Dadaab in north-east Kenya.

“Some of them are walking hundreds of kilometres over several weeks to get help. There is no longer room for them all and we need to be there to give them what they need.”

The situation has been officially declared a “food crisis”, which means children and the elderly are severely malnourished. A famine is declared when the adult population is also severely malnourished.

The drought-afflicted countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea are the worst hit with elderly and children starving as the food crisis worsens. South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania are also affected.

Caritas is engaged in a series of programs to assist those in acute need. Food is being supplied to more than 127,000 people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia with a focus on women and children. Caritas is supplying 70,000 semi-nomadic people in Somalia with clean water as well as first aid to thousands of women and children across the region. Cattle retention programs are also in place.

But Mr de Groot said this was just the start and invited people and families of the Catholic community to join together in solidarity and move toward a common good by coming to the assistance of the world’s most vulnerable.

“It has been a difficult period of time with many nations in need of emergency assistance but the people of the Horn of Africa and East Africa cannot be ignored,” Mr de Groot said.

“When we look at it, what most people need is very basic. Whether it be food for schools or clean water, we can change many lives if the Australian Catholic community comes to their aid.

“Sadly, that is precisely we are heading a humanitarian catastrophe if more is not done.”

Caritas Australia has launched its East Africa Crisis Appeal. For more information, please visit the East Africa Crisis Appeal at the Caritas Australia website.


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