by Christopher Rails CAFOD has defended its programme of emergency aid to Ethiopia and attacked the timing of press allegations that Common Market aid is being re-shipped to Russia.
Cafod (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development) is one of the five organisations in the Disasters Emergency Committee, which launched a £2 million appeal for aid to Ethiopia's famine victims on March 31. Other members of the committee are Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and the British Red Cross.
Within two weeks the DEC had received more than £500,000. An average of six sacks of mail a day has been arriving in response to the appeal broadcast on radio and television at the start of the Easter weekend.
But Cafod and its fellow organisations are worried that press slurs on the destination of aid to Ethiopia could affect the DEC's hopes of raising £2 million.
Cafod is at pains to point out that all DEC aid goes directly to the people it is meant for. DEC workers in the country have reported back that the aid is getting through, and they have personally distributed it.
A recent Sunday Times "exclusive" claimed that DEC aid was being sold to Russia in exchange for Soviet arms. Last week an editorial in The Daily Telegraph repeated the allegations and called on the five member agencies of DEC to tell "a little more of the harsh truths".
A Cafod spokesman said a clear distinction should be drawn between government and non-government aid. Whatever truth there might be behind the newspaper allegations regarding government aid, it should not be applied to that of the agencies, she said. Reports had said that at least some of the DEC aid was also getting through.
Cafod representatives in Ethiopia say that about 1.5 million people are affected by the drought and famine. Hundreds, affected by various diseases, are walking from Northern Ethiopia to the feeding centres. One group of 60 people walked for 25 days to reach a centre.
Children, the sick and the old are sometimes left behind because relatives are not strong enough to carry them. At least 15,000 people, more than 6,000 of whom are children less than 14, have crowded into the small town of Korem, in Wollo province, just south of Tigre province. Some 35 per cent of the children under five are vastly undernourished and need intensive feeding.
Refugees arrive with virtually no possessions and in a climate that drops almost to zero at night, making a desperate need for blankets.
Cafod says deaths from the drought arc impossible to gauge, but it knows of 108 people in one province alone, including 40 children. In Gondar province 65,000 cattle have died.
Prior to the DEC appeal, Cafod had dispensed £8,000 for distribution by the Christian Relief and Development Association, and £3,000 to the Catholic Secretariat of the Ethiopian Bishops' Conference.
Relief programmes are carried out by a number of organisations in Ethiopia. A direct report to the Herald from the Catholic Social Action Committee in Alitena, Tigre, spoke of a feeding programme for schools and a water and soil conservation project.
Among donations received by Cafod for the emergency appeal were an anonymous £5,000 and Funds raised by the appeal are being divided equally among the five member agencies of the DEC.
Donations may be sent to: Ethiopia Famine Appeal, PO Box 999, London EC3A 1HA.
• Fr Patrick O'Mahony, parish priest of Our Lady of the Wayside, Shirley, West Midlands, is sending a load of medical equipment and medicines to the value of £20,000 to the famine victims.
The load, which should leave England tomorrow or on Monday, was requested by Mgr Luca Milesi, the apostolic administrator in charge of social welfare in Asmara in Ethiopia.
Fr O'Mahony is already collecting another load worth £60,000 to be sent out in May.