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As African droughts continue, Catholic churches provide aid, support

“We are very impressed that after the appeal of Christians in the Archdiocese of Nairobi,” says Cardinal John Njue, “food and non-food items amounting to 80 tonnes have been contributed within the last month…”

NAIROBI, Kenya | Many parts of Africa are experiencing significant droughts, and the contribution of the African Catholic Church to humanitarian aid in these drought-stricken regions is significant. In the convoys delivering food, water and medicines, it is common to see officials of Caritas Internationalis or other Catholic agencies joining in the efforts to save lives.

The aid is going to some of the remotest parts of the world, where there are no roads or any other form infrastructure. Some of the regions are war zones, where the crack of Kalashnikovs rings out every day. The conflicts have worsened the drought situations, wiping out people’s coping mechanisms or disrupting the work of those attempting to intervene and help, including those connected with the Church.

While droughts in Africa are not new, the actions of Catholic agencies are vital for in the continent, which has one of the fastest-growing Catholic populations in the world. As much as 17.3% of the global 1.285 billion Catholics live in Africa. Analysts say that the large following helps inspire and compel the Church to act.

Several droughts since 2005

Recently, the recurring droughts have become a too-familiar spectacle on the continent. According to the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, there have been droughts in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2016, and now 2017. The common features through these years characterized by drought are immense suffering, scarcity of resources, and deaths.

The droughts have scorched crops on farms, dried water sources, and destroyed pastures for livestock. The result has been a huge destruction of livelihoods for periods extending into two consecutive seasons or more.

In the past, the pressure had been felt more in rural areas, but food prices have shot-up in urban areas as well, disrupting lives in cities and towns. In the rural areas, millions of people are facing starvation, including thousands of children who are facing the risk of malnutrition.

According to the UN, more than 17 million people in nine African countries are facing hunger. The list reaches 17 countries when counting those which are struggling to cope with the impacts of drought. The total population at risk is estimated at 38 million in these countries.

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