In an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has made a "symbolic contribution" of 25,000 euros to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s efforts to help millions of people facing food insecurity and hunger in East Africa, Vatican Radio reported on Friday.
In a letter addressed to FAO director-general Jose Graziano da Silva, Pope Francis said the funds were "a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought," according to Vatican Radio.
The pontiff's gesture stemmed from a pledge he made in a message to FAO's Conference on 3 July and was "inspired also by the desire to encourage governments," said the letter written by Mons. Fernando Chica Arellano, the Holy See's permanent observer to the UN food agencies in Rome.
Famine was declared in part of South Sudan in February, and while the situation has eased after a significant scaling up in the humanitarian response, some 6 million people in the country are still struggling to find enough food each day.
Meanwhile the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in five other East African countries – Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – is currently estimated at about 16 million - an increase of about 30 per cent since late 2016.
Pope Francis, who has made social solidarity a major theme of his pontificate, is set to visit FAO headquarters on 16 October to mark World Food Day, said Radio Vatican.
This year the event is entitled 'Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”.