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Canada Jun 8, 2017

Bishops appeal for famine-struck nations 

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

A woman in Thonyor, South Sudan, holds a child while waiting to be registered for a food distribution Feb. 26. The United Nations declared the first famine since 2011 on Feb. 20 in parts of the war-torn country. (Siegfried Modola, Reuters / CNS) 

VANCOUVER—Twenty-nine religious leaders, including Christians, Muslims, Rabbis, and Sikhs, have signed a document agreeing that Canada needs to help 20 million starving people in four countries facing famine and food crises.

“As faith leaders in Canada, we call upon our communities and all Canadians to mobilize in response to one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises since the Second World War,” said a June 7 appeal letter signed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as other faith leaders.

Famine has struck Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, threatening an estimated 20 million people with starvation.

“Situations of war and violence are mainly responsible for this crisis,” the letter stated. “Ours is the insistent call for peace and the need to protect the vulnerable.”

A famine was declared in South Sudan’s Unity State Feb. 20 and it’s been estimated that 5.5 million people will be food insecure between May and July, according to a fact sheet released with the letter. In Nigeria, 8.5 million people are in need, including 1.9 million who have abandoned their homes in fear of violence.

More than half of Somalia’s population, about 6.2 million, are in need, including 1.7 million displaced by war or drought. The fact sheet says young children are the hardest hit.

And in Yemen, 18.8 million people (70 per cent of citizens) need help to meet basic needs, including 6.8 million who have severe food insecurity.

The appeal, called Pray-Give-Speak Out, urges all people of faith to do exactly those things in response to the crisis. The Government of Canada has promised to match all donations from individuals to registered Canadian charities between March 17 and June 30 in a Famine Relief Fund.

A special collection will take place at all parishes June 25 with proceeds going to Aid to the Church in Need, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, and Canadian Jesuits International. Anyone who would like to donate immediately is urged to visit rcav.org/prayer-and-humanitarian-appeals.