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Prayers for East Africa

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The millions of people starving in East Africa and Yemen were in the prayers and close to the hearts of those who attended the feast of St Daniel Comboni at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on October 15.

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Members of the local African Catholic community were asked to pray for their homeland: ‘especially those countries where there is violence, hunger and distress. May their people soon know peace and justice’.

Caritas Australia estimates 23 million people are currently on the brink of famine in South Sudan and other areas of East Africa and Yemen, suggesting it may be the ‘worst food crisis globally’ since the Ethiopian famine of 1984.

“This major crisis has been driven by large scale droughts, compounded by climate change, inflation and ongoing conflict in some countries. Millions are now without water and sustainable livelihoods,” the Catholic aid agency has reported.

“Urgent assistance is needed now to respond in South Sudan and neighbouring countries experiencing severe drought and food insecurity, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Somalia and Sudan.”

In South Australia, the African Catholic community shares the pain of loved ones who are affected by the crisis, including Kuol Baak who is monitoring the situation closely.

Kuol, who lives in Port Pirie, was unable to attend the feast day celebrations but said Daniel Comboni’s works resonated with him as his brother is a “proud Comboni missionary scholar”.

Living in Australia for the past 14 years, Kuol said he knew what it felt like to be hungry as he was a child during the famine that ravaged Sudan in 1988.

“A lot of people died then, including many of my close relatives.

“That time there was really a feeling of powerlessness. But now they at least have phone contact with the outside world.”

Kuol sends money back when he can to support his parents and two married sisters who live near Aweil in South Sudan, and his brother who is in Kampala, Uganda.

“They run out of money regularly,” he told The Southern Cross.

“Part of the problem is that things have changed, but we haven’t changed the methods of working the land there.”

Kuol explained that many families in the region had to survive by working only two acres of land – by hand. Crops grown included sorghum, millet and sesame and not only did they have to feed the family, but also provide an income to buy clothes, shoes and now mobile phones.

“There are a lot more expenses now. The rains also come later – they used to come in March and now it is in May – and that affects the crops,” he said.

As well as sending money back to his family members, Kuol contributes to local fundraising efforts which support two schools near Aweil.

“At least we feel like we are doing something,” he said.

The feast day of Daniel Comboni celebrates his missionary work in Africa that started in 1857 and continued until his death in 1881. Named the first Bishop of Central Africa in 1877, St Daniel was the founder of the Comboni Missionaries and Missionary Sisters, who continue his work today across Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Daniel Comboni was canonised in 2003.

For more information, or to make a donation to the East Africa Appeal go to www.caritas.org.au or phone 1800 024 413

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