By Richard Marsden
Projects that provide safe drinking water and renewable energy in nine underdeveloped African countries are set to be awarded grants by an organisation established by Pope Saint John Paul II.
The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel’s Managing Board are holding their annual meeting in Dakar, Senegal, and will allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars to assist communities in countries such as Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, and Chad. Last year, the Managing Board, which is made up of bishops from member countries, financed 127 projects, awarding a total of 2.3 million dollars.
In the name of the Holy Father, the organisation carries out projects against desertification, for the management and development of agricultural units, and for water pumping. It facilitates the training of specialized technical personnel, who are then enabled to serve their countries. Over the years, the Foundation has also been able to foster interreligious dialogue, as the majority of beneficiaries are Muslim.
Food and water shortage
According to the Human Development Index’s rankings of each country, 19 of the bottom 20 are in Africa, with seven being in the Sahel area. Lack of development is aggravated by food crises, the depletion of natural resources, especially water, and violence against local populations by extremist groups.
The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel was founded in 1980 by the late pope following his first visit to Africa, where he personally saw the tragic circumstances lived by people due to long-term drought and desertification. It is now under the competency of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Foundation’s member countries also include Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. The Italian Episcopal Conference and the German Episcopal Conference support the Foundation’s work along with the local churches in Sahel.