Development and Peace asks for donations to help Sahel region avoid disaster
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Vancouver Catholics are being encouraged to give generously during a special collection July 22. The reason: 18 million West Africans are facing starvation.
According to Guy Desaulniers, the emergency relief officer for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), the arid region did not have a good harvest in 2011, and there has been recurring drought.
He said the people of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, northern Nigeria, and Senegal will not have a harvest until September. Five of those countries have declared states of emergency and have requested international aid.
"It's a huge chance for disaster this summer," Desaulniers told The B.C. Catholic June 11. He added that Mali is already in a dire situation because Libyan mercenaries have occupied the northern half of the country.
Kelly Di Domenico, the communications officer for CCODP, said the organization, which is a part of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church's aid and development organization, has been making efforts to provide relief since March. The organization tries to use local African suppliers.
"Right now people are suffering from malnutrition, and we hope it doesn't turn into a Somalia-like situation, like in the 1980s," she said.
Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics in February to take serious action in regard to West Africa. Since his appeal the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined forces with CCODP with an emergency appeal.
Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, the CCCB president, wrote in his appeal letter June 7 that the Sahel region has special significance for Catholics. He said Blessed John Paul II established the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel in 1984 to help Africans gain self-sufficiency.
He added that Pope Benedict had called Africa the "continent of the future" during an address to the foundation.
Donations can be made to the CCODP fundraising effort at 1-888-664-3387 and at www.devp.org.