Story by Elizabeth Carey

A few short weeks ago, I was contemplating my Lent 2022 message to the parish focusing on CAFOD’s theme of hunger, malnutrition and the unequal distribution of food around the world.

News flow out of the Ukraine interrupted that train of thought, as I became transfixed by reports of horrific violence countered by the unimaginable bravery of ordinary citizens. On smartphone screens, TVs and in newspapers, the world was following (and supporting) a modern-day David in mortal combat against against a nuclear armed Goliath. The media images are mesmerising in a deer-in-the-headlights kind of way. The senselessness of Russia’s attack stuns our reason. Our hearts feel broken when we imagine the innocent people in Ukrainian cities, who are being shelled and bombed for having wanted the freedoms we enjoy in Western Europe. We may also feel the despair of Russian citizens who do not support the fighting and want an immediate end to this unjust war. Some brave ones venture out onto the streets to protest. A few heroes call out the Putin regime openly, knowing the likely repercussions of dissent.


As with everything these days, we find it’s complicated and often interrelated. Russia and the Ukraine together grow around ¼ of the global wheat harvest. Much of that is exported to Africa, Asia and beyond. Russia’s destruction of the Ukrainian economy will surely reduce harvests this year, adding yet more pressure to world food supplies. While we in the UK expect to see higher prices at the supermarket and in our energy bills, others will see no food at all, and will go hungry.

CAFOD tells the story of a couple, Amie and Mohammed from Sierra Leone. Their baby Lombeh was not getting enough nutrients from her mother’s milk. Baby Lombeh was in danger of starving to death. Her parents were too poor to afford baby formula. Agonised, they watched their baby waste away. One day Amie took Lombeh to a CAFOD-sponsored clinic for mums and babies. There the sisters taught Amie to make a highly nutritious sesame seed paste based on traditional recipes, which is especially good for children suffering from malnutrition. Amie learned to make this paste and fed it to Lombeh. The clinic provided mother and child ongoing support, and Lombeh finally started to grow. Years later, Lombeh is a happy, healthy young girl who is full of energy. Her mother Amie now shares her knowledge with other mothers in her community. 

It's important to remember that there are good news stories, too. That’s why today, when we can barely take our eyes off the news stories, we must remain resolute and stand united with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine as well as those whose plights never feature in news flows. When the world’s attention gets diverted to a crisis, chronically poor communities—those “left behind” like Lombeh’s—can suffer even more when their support gets redirected to the current emergency.

Let us stand by all our brothers and sisters in need. That means patriots in Ukraine as well as people in countries where malnutrition is too often a way of life. War in Ukraine threatens to make living conditions in poor countries even worse if food exports disappear. Sadly, all too often a vicious link exists between people in crisis in seemingly different parts of the world. In this case it’s hunger.  

Please join me in supporting the CAFOD Lent fast day collection after masses on March 12-13. Envelopes will be available at the back of the church from Saturday, March 5th. If you prefer to give online, you can do so at CAFOD: Donation to the Lent Appeal. Please include Gift-Aid if it applies.

Thank you for giving what you can. Interconnected crises call for a joined-up response: CAFOD expects to share part of the Lent 2022 collection with its sister organisation Caritas Ukraine. Let’s be extra generous next week in supporting the victims of war, visible to us through the media, along with those less visible victims who risk dying of malnutrition because the Earth’s abundance is too unequally shared.  



©Elizabeth Carey 2022

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CAFOD Lent Fast Day Message March 2022

Lombeh was dangerously malnourished as a baby. She was so small she almost died. Around the world, there are 200 million more children like Lombeh whose lives are at risk from malnutrition. 

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