A malnourished Somali child sits next to makeshift tents at a camp for people who have been displaced by drought in Mogadishu on August 9, 2011. (Source: The Globe and Mail by AFP/Getty Images)
Two leading Catholic bishops have asked their fellow bishops to encourage pastors and parishioners to support Catholic Relief Services' emergency relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, suggesting that churches hold a second collection to address the need.
"Every day we are seeing more and more heartbreaking news about the drought and famine in Somalia and the eastern parts of Africa. We see millions of people being forced from their homes, leaving behind what meager possessions they had, and walking for days over rough terrain," Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson wrote.
Archbishop Dolan heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, while Bishop Kicanas chairs the board of Catholic Relief Services.
Catholic Relief Services "can use all the help we can offer in this current tragic situation," they said.
"Through CRS our generosity could literally feed thousands and provide them clean water, shelter and other life-saving goods. Over time, CRS will be able to expand already proven drought mitigation and other development programs that unfortunately are now only available in a handful of villages."
Over 12 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia need urgent humanitarian assistance because of one of the worst droughts in decades. Lack of rainfall, attributed to the weather cycle phenomenon known as La Niña, has caused failed crops, livestock deaths and critical shortages in food and water.
"There are parents whose little children have died, and children who have been orphaned. They are suffering from hunger, thirst, disease, and drought," the two bishops said. "It is a humanitarian crisis that cries out for help to Christians throughout the world."
Catholic Relief Services has worked in East Africa for decades and is responding to the present emergency. The relief agency is expanding its food distribution program to 1.1 million people and is working closely with local partners to provide basic necessities to highly vulnerable displaced families.
"The Holy Father, on several occasions, has asked Catholics to respond generously to the desperate needs of our brothers and sisters in East Africa," Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Kicanas said.