Cor Unum: Hundreds of Thousands Could Die in East Africa

ROME, JULY 19, 2011 ( The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is warning that hundreds of thousands of people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of dying due to a lack of basic necessities.

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In a communiqué today, the council, which oversees the Church’s charity work, noted Benedict XVI’s appeal Sunday for international solidarity in response to the drought that has caused the emergency, complicated in some areas by violent conflict.

Echoing UNICEF, Cor Unum called the situation a «critical humanitarian emergency.»

«Around 10 million people are suffering, and hundreds of thousands of refugees risk dying because of a lack of basic necessities. Somalia and northern Kenya are the worst struck areas,» the Vatican dicastery reported.

The U.N. was reportedly set to declare Wednesday that parts of the region, particularly south Somalia, are in famine. The drought is the worst the area has seen for 60 years. The last official famine was in 1984-85, when about 1 million people in Ethiopia and Sudan died.

South Somalia is controlled by Islamic fundamentalists who until last week had banned aid agencies from the area.

As a token of his concern, the Holy Father already sent a €50,000 ($70,000) donation through Cor Unum to the apostolic administrator of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Today’s communiqué noted the bishop, Giorgio Bertin, is «directly involved in bringing assistance to the people affected.»

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