By John Pontifex
FOOD and medicine are to be sent to hundreds of stricken families in Mali as Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need delivers emergency aid to people who have fled their homes.
The aid – totalling £34,000 (€40,000) – will be sent to 326 families following reports of children suffering malnutrition having escaped violence and turmoil.
The grant, announced by ACN today (Friday, 25th Jan), is being administered by Mopti Catholic diocese, southern Mali, a region where thousands of people continue to flee the violence and turmoil in the land-locked west Saharan country.
One of the world’s poorest nations, Mali is locked in a battle for supremacy after Islamists seized the north, prompting a French military retaliation earlier this month.
With reports of an impending French-led international air and ground offensive against the Islamists, Church leaders have warned of the need to act quickly in case the violence intensifies.
Bishop Georges Fonghoro of Mopti told ACN: “In the past months people have suffered enormously, especially in the north of the country. Many have fled to escape the violence.”
The bishop, whose diocese contains 40,000 Catholics, added: “We are dealing now with displaced people.
“The situation has calmed down even though a state of emergency was extended by three months. People are still afraid to return to their villages.”
Stressing how mothers and children are particularly lacking food, the bishop said: “The needs are enormous, the situation of the people both in the countryside and the cities is precarious and requires us to act immediately.”
The aid comes on top of emergency aid given to Mali last year, again helping displaced people.
The crisis broke nearly a year ago when Mali’s army staged a coup prompting Islamist militants and secular rebels to extend their control to the whole of the north, an area of the Sahara Desert larger than France.
With the army putting up very little resistance, France carried out airstrikes in cities in the rebel-held north while working jointly with Malian troops to recapture Diabaly, Konna and Douentza, all close to Mopti.
Last weekend, ACN received an account of the people’s suffering from a missionary priest reporting on the lead-up to the liberation of strategically important Diabaly and Konna a week ago (Friday, 18th Jan).
Fr Zacharie Sorgho, whose parish of Nioro du Sahel in western Mali, has welcomed people fleeing the conflict, described the events, saying: “One morning there was an armed assault [by Islamist rebels] in the city of Konna… and other southern cities.
“This created a great fear in the city and everyone was in a state of confusion. People were fleeing and there were cries of despair.
“After the intense fighting, Konna was freed from the hands of the jihadist Muslims. But then they attacked Diabaly and took it. They used people as human shields.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Blessed John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and more than 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.