— Rome — Pope Francis warned of a “grave humanitarian crisis” in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as famine has struck the area after months of fighting between government forces, aided by Eritrea, and local rebels.
“I am especially close to the population of the Tigray region in Ethiopia, struck by a grave humanitarian crisis that could expose the poorest people to famine,” the Pope said, inviting the faithful to “pray together that the violence may cease immediately, that food and health assistance may be guaranteed to everyone, and that social harmony may be restored as soon as possible.”
Leaders of the world’s seven “advanced economies” – the so-called “G-7,” issued a similar statement on Sunday, saying, “We are deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict… and reports of an unfolding major humanitarian tragedy, including potentially hundreds of thousands in famine conditions.” They also called for an immediate ceasefire, and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops.
Although a famine has not been officially declared, a study backed by the United Nations found that more than 350,000 people are living in conditions similar to famine, with more than two million more living in “emergency conditions.” Tigray has a population of almost six million.
Thousands of people have been killed in fighting since conflict broke out in November, with approximately 1.7 million forced to flee their homes.
World Day Against Child Labour
The Pope also appealed on Sunday for an end to the exploitation of children, which he called “this slavery of our times.”
“It is not possible to close our eyes before the exploitation of children, deprived of the right to play, to study, and to dream,” he said. Citing International Labour Organization statistics, he noted that some 150 million children are exploited by labour – “more or less like the inhabitants of Spain, together with France and Italy.”
The Pope’s remarks came in the wake of the World Day Against Child Labour, 12 June, established by the ILO in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the actions necessary to eliminate it. The ILO estimates more than 218 million children work throughout the world, with over half exposed to the worst forms of child labour, including work in hazardous environments, slavery or forced labour, drug trafficking, prostitution, or as soldiers in armed conflicts.