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Ukraine war diverts attention from hunger, Pope says in appeal to Somalia

Pope Francis said on Sunday the war in Ukraine had diverted attention from the problem of world hunger and called for urgent food aid to avert a looming famine in Somalia.

“The people of this region, already living in very precarious conditions, are now in mortal danger from drought,” he said in his weekly speech in St. Peter’s Square, referring to the Horn of Africa.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said this month that it could officially declare famine in eight regions of Somalia next month if livestock continue to die, commodity prices continue to rise and aid humanitarian aid does not reach the most vulnerable.

Francis told the pilgrims and tourists present in the square that he wanted to draw attention “to the serious humanitarian crisis that affects Somalia and some areas of neighboring countries.”

The UN refugee agency UNHCR and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said last week that around a million people have been internally displaced in Somalia since January.

UN agencies have called for more funds to help stave off famine in Somalia, which is one of the countries most susceptible to climate vulnerability.

“I hope that international solidarity can respond effectively to this emergency,” Francis said.

“Unfortunately, the war (in Ukraine) has distracted attention and resources, but these are the goals that require the greatest commitment: the fight against hunger, health care, education,” he said.

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