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Pope appeals for more aid for famine victims

Benedict XVI in St Peter's Square before his weekly general audience (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI has urged the international community to deliver more aid to the drought- and famine-stricken Horn of Africa and asked people to offer prayers and donate money to help save the millions facing death.

The Pope said at the end of his weekly general audience: “I invited everyone to offer prayers and concrete aid for their many brothers and sisters so harshly tried, and particularly for the children, who die in that region each day because of sickness and a lack of water and food.”

Attending the audience were Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable giving, and Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibouti, the apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Somalia.

The two were joined by representatives of Catholic charities from around the world, including the US bishops’ Catholic Relief Services, and a representative of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. They were to participate in a Vatican-sponsored meeting on the situation in the Horn of Africa.

Pope Benedict said the meeting was designed to “verify and give further energy to the initiatives aimed at facing this humanitarian emergency”.

The worst drought in six decades has hit Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, which was already suffering because of the lack of a central government and ongoing conflicts between warring clans. The drought killed crops and animals, triggering a famine which has left at least 10 million people in need of aid, according to Caritas Internationalis. Thousands of Somalis have fled to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, placing an even greater strain on the limited resources there.