By Francesca Merlo
“Give us this day our daily bread”. At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis prays that the Lord might grant this to all those suffering a lack of bread – which, he says, “means also water, medicine, home, work” and “all that is necessary to live”.
He was referring, in particular, to bread for all the “starving children, in countries in which there is none”.
The “bread” for which Christians pray is “not ‘mine’, but ‘ours’”, says the Pope. “It would do us some good to stop and think about starving children”.
He refers specifically to the children living in war-torn countries, using the three examples of Yemen, Syria and South Sudan.
We can understand why he focuses on these three, forgotten, countries, and their children.
At least 85 thousand children have died from malnutrition in Yemen since the war broke out 4 years ago. Two million more are in need of cures against this same killer. Along with starvation come vulnerable immune systems and along with vulnerable immune systems come illnesses – diarrhea, and cholera, which infects approximately 1,000 children daily. The United Nations Children’s Fund reminds us that the lives of almost twelve thousand minors depends entirely on humanitarian aid. These are some of the children Pope Francis is encouraging us to share our daily bread with.
But along with famine and illness come the bombs – almost 6,500 children have been killed or injured from the 19 thousand air raids that have taken place in Yemeni skies over the years. On Wednesday morning, an air raid struck a hospital – in place to help cure the other two killers: famine and illness – killing seven people, of whom 4 were children.
Eight years of war later, in Syria, 20,000 children’s lives are at risk due to malnutrition. 5 million children have been born into this raging conflict. Eight million is the number of those disrupted by this crisis. Mines are the main cause of death amongst the youth in Syria, and of the two million who are no longer able to attend school due to the destruction of over 50% of scholastic infrastructure, almost 1000 have been recruited to join armed forces. Each child’s health is at risk, with half of the sewage system being out of use and with extremely low access to basic social services.
Famine in South Sudan puts 7 million people at risk. The war broke that out 6 years ago, has caused a lack of safe drinking water, basic sanitation, and a reduction in cereal production. The lives of 860,000 minors are at risk, and this alarming situation continues to worsen.
Pope Francis calls out selfishness
“Our love cannot stand this” says Pope Francis, that the “bread that was given to [all of] humanity, has instead been eaten only by a few”. “God’s love cannot stand this selfishness of not sharing the bread”.