Lebanon + 10 more

Bishops called to respond to humanitarian crisis in Africa

January 13, 2003, Baltimore, MD - In a letter to U.S. Bishops, the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Wilton Gregory, joined Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Chairman and President Bishop Robert Lynch today in calling for prayers and support for the 34 million people throughout Africa affected by a severe food shortage. Absent a massive and immediate response, the crisis could be the worst in Africa since the famine in the mid-1980s.
"Because of our national pre-occupations, we have been made less than fully aware of the imminent suffering and death that is facing tens of millions of our brothers and sisters on the Africa continent," the letter states.

Countries throughout Africa are facing food shortages as a result of a convergence of multiple factors -- some natural, like drought and floods, and some man-made, like government policy. Throughout southern Africa, the Horn of Africa and parts of the Sahel in western Africa, more than 34 million people are in need of immediate food aid for survival. Due to a lack of international response, however, it is estimated that there will be a 1.7 million ton food gap between now and March, leaving untold millions without necessary food aid. U.S. government resources are unusually limited this year due to the lack of movement on the budget as well as sharp increases in commodity prices, the letter states, leaving several CRS proposals un-funded or under-funded due to financial constraints.

The crisis is exacerbated by an HIV/AIDS rate averaging more than 20 percent in some of the affected countries. The acute lack of resources causes a particular burden on households affected by HIV/AIDS as they struggle to care for those that are ill or orphaned from the disease. Without access to basic resources to meet their essential nutritional demands, the condition of those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as other diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, will worsen dramatically

"We call on you to respond to this impending humanitarian crisis and to support the efforts of Catholic Relief Services as it reaches out, on our behalf, to those suffering from famine and AIDS in Africa," the letter states. "We urge you to recommend to all parishes and institutions under your jurisdiction prayer and voluntary collections during the months of January and February."

CRS is working throughout the countries affected to address the crisis. In addition to immediate food distributions and supplementary feeding, the agency is operating agricultural recovery activities, including the distribution of seeds and tools for the next planting season, the organization of seed fairs and providing training and support in farming practices that will help avert such crises in the future. Agency programs in the region also emphasize helping communities mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS.

Bishop Lynch was part of a delegation of Church representatives who traveled to southern Africa in November for a weeklong journey aiming to increase solidarity and promote awareness of the challenges and opportunities southern Africans face daily. The delegation, which included representatives of USCCB and CRS, visited South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

To contribute to Catholic Relief Services' efforts, send donations to:
Catholic Relief Services
"Africa in Crisis"
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090