BY STAFF REPORTER
THE SCOTTISH Catholic Church has promised tens of thousands of pounds to help alleviate the threat of famine in Western Africa.
Sciaf, the international aid agency of the Scottish bishops’ conference, has committed £50,000 to the crisis, which has affected over 3.6 million people. The funds will be used to feed families in Niger and Burkina Faso.
A plague of locusts and insufficient rains have devastated the area, forcing many to eat leaves and plants to survive. According to Niger’s government, of the 106 zones faced with food shortages, 56 are in critical condition.
Sciaf’s funds are being channelled through Caritas Internationalis, the international network of aid agencies of which Sciaf is a member. Caritas staff have already visited some of the worstaffected regions including Agadez, Diffa, Dosso, Maradi, Tahoua, Tillabery/Niamey, and Zinder.
Paul Chitnis, Sciaf Chief Executive said: “Sciaf’s donation of £50,000 will be used to feed some of the most vulnerable members of society in urban and rural areas. We’re working with communities to ensure they have food stored for the months ahead, have feed for their animals and seeds for the next planting season.
“It is a reflection on current international policies and priorities that the situation in Western Africa has reached crisis point. The deaths in Niger and Burkina Faso are a shocking indictment of a world that allows millions to go hungry whilst we in the UK throw away a third of the food that we produce every year.
“This crisis underlines the continuing urgency of more and better aid for Africa, one of the key demands of the Make Poverty History campaign, if we are to halve global hunger by 2015.” Other activists have accused the UN of compounding the disaster by moving too slowly. Bernard Kouchner, the founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, said that the World Food Program , the UN agency responsible for food aid, should have acted faster.
“I say very clearly: the United Nations system didn’t give us sufficient warning. Moreover, they did not react sufficiently,” he said in an interview.
The World Food Program said that a slow response from international donors to its repeated appeals for cash and problems buying food in the region had limited its ability to respond.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, criticised the international community for failing to help the poor.
He described the outcome of last month’s G8 summit on global issues as “disappointing” and attacked the “inactivity of our leaders” in dealing with the unfolding crisis in Niger.
“It would have cost a dollar a day to prevent malnutrition among children if the world had responded quickly; now it costs 80 dollars to save a malnourished child’s life.
Cafod, the official aid agency for the bishops of England and Wales, is also running a West Africa appeal.
For more information, please call Cafod on 020 7733 7900.