8 Million Facing Famine in East Africa

Caritas Requesting Aid for Djibouti

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- About 8 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti are facing “a terrible famine,” warns Caritas Internationalis.

The Vatican-based Catholic confederation said that it urgently needs about $45,000 to bring food aid to the people of Djibouti.

The country, like its larger neighbors in the Horn of Africa region, is falling victim to famine after years of drought.

Several consecutive seasons of failed rains and crops have left 150,000 people in need of food aid in Djibouti, explained Caritas.

“Even if some rain were to fall in the coming months, it would not be enough to avoid the impending humanitarian crisis,” the confederation said.

The lack of rain has hit the pastoral herders particularly hard, since they depend on watering holes and prairie grasses to keep their livestock healthy.

Caritas Djibouti plans to bring food aid to some 200 families in the interior of the country, using the network the Catholic Church has established through its missions in All-Sabieh, Obock and Tadjoura.

Over a month ago, the Vatican newspaper sounded an alarm over famine in the Horn of Africa. L’Osservatore Romano described the international reaction to the famine as “largely insufficient.”

Desperate need

On Friday the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire reported on the worst drought in the past 10 years which has hit the Horn of Africa. It cited an assessment by the humanitarian agency Oxfam.

Mohammed Elmi, in charge of Oxfam’s program for the region, stressed the “desperate need of water” of those populations. The agency pointed out that the families of pastoral herders are obliged to survive on only a 20th of the water recommended, and many of them can only count on three glasses of water a day.

It is not possible to survive on that amount “with temperatures that exceed 40 degrees” Celsius, warned Elmi. That is about 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Not having water, children must drink their own urine,” warned Abdullahi Maalim Hussein, an elder of the Somali village who accompanied the humanitarian agency in its mission to the border areas of Kenya and Somalia.

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