(Vatican Radio) Michael O’Riordan, a Catholic humanitarian official, spoke about the ongoing severe food and hunger crisis in South Sudan and about the challenges and rewards of his job. O’Riordan is the Emergency Programme Manager in South Sudan for CAFOD, the Catholic Church’s aid agency for England and Wales and its Irish counterpart, Trocaire. His remarks coincided with World Humanitarian Day celebrated each year on August 19th and which pays tribute to aid workers who often risk their own lives to bring help to millions of needy people across the globe. The celebration is also to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. O’Riordan was interviewed by Susy Hodges.
Listen to the interview with Michael O’Riordan who works for the Catholic aid agencies, CAFOD and Trocaire:
O’Riordan has been based in South Sudan since earlier this year when the first news of a famine in the war-torn country emerged. He said that although the famine since then has been largely pushed back thanks to humanitarian aid, the people there are still facing starvation and hunger and the threat of a new famine has not receded.
“Very thin and emaciated”
O’Riordan described how everywhere they went they saw people who are “malnourished, very thin and even emaciated” in some of the remoter areas. Among the children the health situation was worse with “very very high” rates of acute malnutrition, he said.
“Utterly reliant" on food aid
The humanitarian official said these are people who are “utterly reliant on food” coming from aid agencies to get by and the problem is made worse by an “ongoing cholera outbreak.”
Another problem cited by O’Riordan was what he described as an “apathy” towards those who are suffering …. a lessening of sympathy towards the plight of others” by many people in the richer nations who are not so generous with aid donations as in the past.
Humanitarian aid "gives hope"
Asked about the rewards of his job, O’Riordan said it was “the simple gratitude” shown by those they are helping. He described humanitarian aid as not just giving food or other relief supplies to the needy but more importantly “giving hope” to those who might otherwise feel they have been “forgotten or abandoned.”
Photo by David Mutua of CAFOD.