From February 19-23, in Dakar, Senegal, the annual meeting will be held of the Managing Board of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, entrusted since its establishment in 1984 by Saint John Paul II to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. Cor Unum, and now within the competence of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The under-secretary of the Dicastery, Msgr. Segundo Tejado Muñoz will take part in the Board meeting. During the meeting, projects awaiting financing will be examined; 127 were approved in 2017, with a total allocation of about 2.3 million dollars; until 2016, the projects financed amounted to over 3,200, for a total of approximately 38 million dollars.
The members of the Board are: H.E. Msgr. Lucas Kalfa Sanou, bishop of Banfora, Burkina Faso, president; H.E. Msgr. Paul Abel Mamba, bishop of Ziguinchor, Senegal, vice-president; H.E. Msgr. Martin Albert Happe, M.Afr., bishop of Nouakchott, Mauritania, treasurer; H.E. Msgr. Ambroise Ouedraogo, bishop of Maradi, Niger; H.E. Msgr. Furtado Arlingo Gomes, Bishop of Santiago de Cabo Verde, Cape Verde; H.E. Msgr. Goetbe Edmond Djitangar, archbishop of N’Djamena, Chad; H.E. Msgr. Gabriel Mendy, C.S.Sp., Bishop of Banjul, Gambia; H.E. Msgr. José Câmnate na Bissign, bishop of Bissau, Guinea Bissau; H.E. Msgr. Augustin Traoré, bishop of Segou, Mali.
With the collaboration, in particular, of the Italian Episcopal Conference, of the German Episcopal Conference and of the local Church, the Foundation carries out, in the name of the Holy Father, projects against desertification, for the management and development of agricultural units, for water pumping, and for the improvement of drinking water and renewable energy, to assist the communities of the member countries (Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal). It is also occupied with the training of specialized technical personnel, who are then enabled to serve their country. Over the years the Foundation has also been able to foster interreligious dialogue: indeed, the majority of beneficiaries, are Muslim.
According to the Human Development Index, which measures the human development index for each country, of the last 20 of the ranking 19 belong to Africa and, of these, 7 are located in the Sahel area. The situation is aggravated by food crises, the depletion of natural resources, especially water, and the violence perpetrated on the population of the area, where extremist groups are present.
The foundation is an initiative desired by Pope John Paul II following his first visit to Africa, where he personally saw the great tragedy lived by people due to long-term drought and desertification. On 10 May 1980, His Holiness pronounced the following words which are at the origin of the Foundation: “When the poor and needy cannot find water … I, the Lord, will hear them! … I will change the dry and barren land into a lake” (Is 41:17-18) and “the water that I give will become for them a flowing fountain that gives eternal life (Jn 4:14). From this very place, I launch a solemn appeal to the entire world … I raise my voice in supplication … I make my voice the voice of those who have no voice, the voice of the innocent”.