, 11 January, 2020 / 2:35 AM
An Africa-based official of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church in the U.S. with presence in over half of African countries has expressed confidence that the various humanitarian challenges facing Africa, the world’s second largest continent, among them, conflict and adverse effects of climate change such as drought and floods, can be overcome through unity.
“We believe a better, more just world is possible. And we can turn that belief into reality if we stand together and lift up our voices,” Catholic Relief Services’s (CRS) Global Marketing and Communications Manager, Michael Stulman told Crux.
“Working together, we can continue to be a beacon of light to the world’s most vulnerable people in their time of need,” the CRS official affirmed during the January 1 interview.
In 2020, CRS, the humanitarian arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is considering, through a collaborative approach, climate change as one of the issues that “require urgent intervention from the international community,” the Senegal-based official said.
“We’re alarmed by the continued impacts we’re seeing from climate change, which is already devastating communities from Africa to Asia,” Mr. Stulman said and added, “Droughts are becoming longer and more frequent; storms are becoming more destructive; and erratic weather patterns are wreaking havoc on farmers worldwide.”
The CRS official also revealed in the new year interview that though his agency anticipates “violence in the Sahel will continue to escalate and affect more than a million people in the region,” they are hopeful that the Sahel Peace Initiative will be instrumental in restoring peace in the region.
He added, “The Sahel Peace Initiative is a recent partnership with CRS and the Catholic Church in West Africa to raise awareness of the crisis, and to mobilize funding for humanitarian and development programs in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. This will be a big priority for us in 2020 and beyond.”
According to the French and English speaker, in countries that are experiencing violence, CRS addresses the root causes of conflict such as “poverty, youth unemployment, a lack of education, and an erosion of the social fabric.”
Mr. Stulman added, “We are also creating systemic change by strengthening local institutions and government structures to enhance a community’s ability to respond to future crises.”
In the interview, the CRS Manager revealed that South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso or Democratic Republic of Congo are some of the most challenging environments to work in.
In these countries, aid workers and volunteers may be exposed to hostile environments, he said and noted that through their collaboration with other agencies, they are able to mitigate adverse effects of violence and any hostilities on their staff.
“As an agency we strive to reach the most vulnerable people,” he said about CRS and added, “Inevitably this involves an element of risk for our own staff.”
He also noted that through continuous monitoring of emergency situations, his organization is “committed to taking every possible measure to protect and assist our teams on the ground”
“We’re always in touch with other international agencies, local organizations and the communities on the ground to fully understand the situation and respond accordingly,” Mr. Stulman said.
CRS was established in 1943, by the USCCB to serve the survivors of the Second World War.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa