The story is not yet making headlines but Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years is threatenting 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 ACN-USA Outreach Director Edward Clancy.
Mr. Clancy added: “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-USA.
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, ACNUSA spent more than $1.2M to support a range of Church-related projects across the country.
There are some 600,000 members of the Oriental Ethiopian Catholic Church in a population of approx. 94 million.
With picture of Ethiopian faithful (© ACN)
Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.