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Agency dispatches emergency aid to Ethiopia--more than 8 million people face famine
"We are a pastoral aid agency, but we are prepared to respond to all of the needs of the Christian community and other vulnerable citizens."
NEW YORK—The story is not yet making headlines but Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years is threatening the lives of millions of people. According to the UN, 8.2 million people are in urgent need of food aid, as close to one million have already left their homes in search of sustenance.
International Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just dispatched $500,000 in emergency support to relieve conditions in 13 of the country’s famine-stricken dioceses.
“We are a pastoral aid agency, but we are prepared to respond to all of the needs of the Christian community and other vulnerable citizens—just as we are doing in conflict-plagued Iraq and Syria,” said ACNUSA Outreach Director Edward Clancy, adding: “Especially in this Year of Mercy, the faithful in the West must stand with the poor all around the world.”
Current conditions may rival those of 1984, when a drought killed more than one million Ethiopians. While not all of the country is hit by drought and hunger, “the catastrophe can be felt everywhere,” Father Haile Gabriel Meleku, deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian bishops’ conference told ACN.
Just before Christmas, the Ethiopian bishops released a statement blaming “climate change and environmental degradation” for the current crisis.
The prelates cited Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato SiI, as laying out the scenario being played out in Ethiopia: “Many of the poor live in areas … affected by warming and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture … They have no other financial activities or resoures which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters.”
Last fall, the UN launched an appeal for $350,000 in aid for Ethiopia, while an additional $750,000 is likely needed if the crisis persists. In 2015, ACN spent more than $1.2M to support a range of Church-related projects across the country. In addition to a small number of Latin-rite Catholics, Ethiopia is home to some 600,000 members of the Oriental Ethiopian Catholic Church in a population of approx. 94 million.
Ethiopian faithful; ACN photo