Enquiry: The challenge of drought

Fr Filippo Perin, 52, is a missionary in Ethiopia’s Gambella region on the border with South Sudan, Vatican News reports. A beautiful land where, however, there is no water; the people are starving and the climate is unbearable.

His project, supported by the Salesians and the non-profit organization Cuore Amico, opens as many wells as possible to ensure the population’s survival in a country where the average life expectancy is below 50 years of age.

In some parts of the world, marked by long periods of drought and famine, people are prepared to die for a jug of drinking water or for access to a stream. Brother against brother: it is a war often fought with bare hands, a war of hunger and thirst. This is what is happening in Ethiopia, in the Gambella, one of the African nation’s most remote and poorest regions, where the missionary, Fr Filippo Perin, parish priest of Lare, has been living and working since 2008, together with the large Salesian family, which arrived here after the Jubilee of 2000.

Gambella brings together many different ethnic groups and has also been home to numerous South Sudanese refugees living in eight refugee camps for some ten years. “Only 14 per cent of the population has access to drinking water,” Fr Filippo tells us, “so it is not uncommon for bloody clashes to break out between villages over water. That is why one of the first things we felt was most urgent was to raise funds to dig wells. The costs, however, are high. Just to bring the excavating machine to this impervious and isolated area requires three thousand euros, and the cost for the digging work is also expensive, but it saves people’s lives.”

With the support of the Church, the Cuore Amico Fraternità foundation, and many private individuals, 100 wells have been built in Gambella today, and we intend to keep on doing this to allow more and more people to live, because without water, there can be no life.

Fr Filippo Perin ends his interview with a painful story: “In February, which was one of the hottest months I have ever experienced since I’ve been here, we spent days counting the dead and there are no newspaper reports on this. People of various ethnic groups clash and kill each other for control of the water, of the wells. So Laudato si’ and even more so Laudate Deum, exhort us to work for concord and fraternity in this remote place, where everything is lacking but there is also a deep desire to change things and to be able to live, not just survive.”

Social Enquiry


Are you aware of similar stories of drought and starvation in other countries?

What about in Australia? How does drought affect people here?

Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production. Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity.

The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. 

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, §27 and §51

How should we respond to such situations in Australia? Overseas?

As individuals and Christians? As a group?

Pope Francis writes:

This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world, for “he commanded and they were created; and he established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds and he set a law which cannot pass away” (Ps 148:5b-6). 

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ §68

Do you agree with Pope Francis?


Is there anything we could do as individuals and/or as a group to respond to water issues in Australia and/or overseas?

Full story

Ethiopia and its life-giving water wells (Vatican News)


Johannes Plenio / Pexels