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Pope Francis donates to FAO to assist drought and conflict-stricken populations in East Africa

In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis has symbolically donated €25,000 to FAO's efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.

Pope Francis said the funds are "a symbolic contribution to an FAO programme that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by the combined effects of conflicts and drought."

The pontiff's remarks were contained in a letter written to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva by Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN food agencies in Rome.

Pope Francis' gesture stemmed from a pledge he made in a message to FAO's Conference on 3 July 2017 and was "inspired also by the desire to encourage Governments," Monsignor Chica wrote in the letter.

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February and while the situation has eased after a significant scaling up in the humanitarian response, some 6 million people in the country are still struggling to find enough food every day.

Meanwhile the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in five other East African countries - Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - is currently estimated at about 16 million, which marks an increase of about 30 percent since late 2016.

Pope Francis, who has made solidarity a major theme of his pontificate, is set to visit FAO's headquarters on 16 October to mark World Food Day. This year the event is being held under the slogan: "Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development".

Distributed by APO on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).