The Cry of the Earth and Cry of the Poor. Witnessing the Situation in East Africa

Br. Benedict Ayodi, OFM Capuchin, Kenya

February 2020

The trip from Nairobi to Hola was good until we arrived in Bura, where we were stuck on the highway due to a broken bridge that had been swept away by the flooded Tana river. Many travellers, including women and children, were stranded with no food and water for several hours. Earlier, we had received the sad news of the deaths of over 30 people due to mudslides in West Pokot, Kenya. The ongoing unseasonal heavy rains were not only affecting Kenya but the whole region of East Africa including Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. The UN reported that more than 420,000 people had fled from the floods in South Sudan and the government had declared an emergency.

As Capuchin Charities, we are helping the most affected families by supplying them with food, water, and medicine. In our visits, the locals confirm the weather patterns have become more erratic, making it more difficult to farm and expect a good harvest. Historically, in most parts of Kenya long rains began in March and ended in May, but this has drastically changed due to climate change.

It’s unfortunate that the majority of people experiencing the effects of climate change in this region are poor. For them, the struggle to earn a living, feed their families and create safe and stable homes is made more difficult every day by the extreme weather. This reminds me of the message of Pope Francis in Laudato si that “we should hear the Cry of the Earth and Cry of the poor.” Thus, though our efforts to protect the global environment are essential, so are the efforts to protect people, especially the poor, who experience the worst impacts of climate change. Following our Franciscan Charism, we value and promote both the dignity of the human person and the integrity of creation. I think we need to do more to advocate for political action in this part of the world that not only reduces climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, but transitions our communities to a just economy so that our solutions, as Pope Francis said “demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, at the same time protecting nature”.

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