A woman holds a malnourished child in Mogadishu, Somalia. The UN has declared the famine a humanitarian emergency.

CNS PHOTO | FEISAL OMAR, REUTERS

A woman holds a malnourished child in Mogadishu, Somalia. The UN has declared the famine a humanitarian emergency.

August 29, 2011
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA — The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is urging Canadian Catholics to help the 10 million people in the Horn of Africa whose lives are endangered by drought and famine.

CCODP spokesperson Kelly Di Domenico described the worsening situation in the region as "drastic."

"Efforts are focused on increasing food distribution and providing water and there are some programs to try to maintain the health of livestock, as they represent not only food but the livelihood of people."

DESPERATE REFUGEES

The region, which includes Somali, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the new Republic of South Sudan, is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. Somalia has been hardest hit and refugees are pouring into neighbouring Kenya where one camp, designed to hold 90,000 people has swelled to more than 400,000.

CCODP began issuing warnings about the famine in early July.

The United Nations has since declared the famine a humanitarian emergency.

Canada has offered to match each dollar CCODP and other charities receive towards famine relief by Sept. 16.

"The matching program is a great way for people to see their donations go even further in helping people in this terrible situation," said Di Domenico.

The summer holidays have not interfered with the flow of donations.

"People have been reacting very quickly to this crisis," she said. "We even had people calling us before the emergency began to get much attention in the media."

CCODP has warned 10 million people are at risk, evoking memories of the 1984 Ethiopian famine.

"We are fortunate that our donors are so compassionate and generous," Di Domenico said.

But the crisis may continue long after it "falls off the media radar" so CCODP "will continue to remind people that there is still much suffering that we can help alleviate."

CCODP's partners through the Holy See's charitable arm Caritas Internationalis have a great deal of experience in the region over the past 35 years, she said.

"They are the ones helping out even when there are small disasters that don't get international attention, so they know how to reach the most vulnerable."

Di Domenico said the crisis has been building for a long time and partners such as Caritas Ethiopia and Caritas Kenya have been helping communities cope with the impact of food and water shortages since about last November.

AVERT FUTURE FAMINES

These groups will also still be working in the region when the crisis is past, working to help prevent future famines through shoring up sustainable food production, she said.

In areas of Somali controlled by Islamist militants, it has been difficult for aid to reach some of the worst affected people.

"However, certain local organizations, including some Caritas partners, manage nonetheless to respond to the urgent needs of the population, while limiting the risks to their employees," she said.

Those wishing to make a donation to help with famine relief can do so via the CCODP website at www.devp.org or by telephone at 1-888-664-3387.