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Declare “state of emergency”: Bishops in Angola, Sao Tome and Principe amid Drought

Members of the Bishops Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST). Credit: Courtesy Photo

There is need for the government of Angola to declare a “state of emergency” in the Southern African nation where a protracted drought has created a humanitarian crisis, members of the Bishops Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST) have said.

In their Monday, October 11 statement, the Catholic Bishops express concern about “the hunger caused by the long drought and the consequent lack of food, especially in the South of our country.”

“We call on the government to declare a State of Emergency in the South of our country to allow for assistance from the International Community,” CEAST members say in their collective message following their October 6-11 Plenary Assembly.

The Catholic Bishops urge the government through the Integrated Plan for Intervention in Municipalities (PIIM) to “prioritize programs that combat hunger and poverty.”

Angola, a country with a population of over 31 million inhabitants is currently facing the worst drought emergency in the last 40 years as a result of climate change.

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According to a report by the World Food Program (WFP), “More than 1.3 million people in the three south-western provinces of Cunene, Huila and Namibe are facing severe hunger as the worst drought in 40 years leaves fields barren, pasture lands dry and food reserves depleted.”

“Migration of families to other provinces and neighbouring Namibia in search of water and grazing for cattle has been registered in the South of the country,” WFP’s Head of Office in Angola, Michele Mussoni, has been quoted as saying. 

The drought has also impacted 114,000 children under the age of five who are suffering or likely to suffer from acute malnutrition in the next 12 months, with serious effects on their physical and mental development, WFP leadership says in the report.

In their October 11 statement, CEAST members express solidarity with the people of God in the Southern part of the nation forced to live under harsh conditions.

They call on the authorities to “create a contingency plan to help the population in these areas.”

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Held at the Muxima Sanctuary in Angola’s Luanda Archdiocese, the Second Plenary Assembly saw Bishops deliberate on the Synod on Synodality, Missionary month, insecurity, the 30th Anniversary of the Visit of Pope Saint John Paul II to Angola.

The members of CEAST also reviewed the activities of the Catholic University of Angola.

In their collective statement, the Catholic Bishops also express concerns about the “increasing levels of insecurity throughout the country, where religious institutions are not spared.”

“Our country is experiencing in the cities, especially in Luanda, quite serious security situations; robberies have multiplied, people are no longer safe,” the Catholic Bishops say.

They note that the increase in the cases of robberies obliges “the Catholic Church to condemn these acts because two of our institutions were robbed during our plenary.”

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The Catholic Church leaders call on the government to “improve the response capacity of police agencies with means that allow better mobility and stimulus for the agents.”

In their statement, CEAST members say that Angola is experiencing a “growing pre-election tension” between the two major parties in the country. Elections in the Southern African nation have been scheduled for 2022.  

“There is a need to improve the political discourse to ensure peace, security and harmony among citizens,” the Catholic Bishops say, and add, “The growing inflation in our country has decreased the purchasing power of citizens.”