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Ten moments from CAFOD in 2023: A year in review

28 December 2023

2023 has not been without its challenges – from conflicts new and ongoing, to droughts and floods, and a cost-of-living crisis felt both here in the UK and the world over.  

Over these past 12 months we have been buoyed by our incredible supporters, who have donated to our humanitarian appeals, spoken out about injustice to MPs, joined us in prayer and fundraised in their schools, churches and communities. Thank you to everyone who has stood by us to help those most in need across the world.   

Here are some moments from 2023.

1. Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal

The Turkey and Syria earthquake killed over 50,000 people and left millions without homes. CAFOD joined the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to launch a major appeal, and once again our supporters showed their enormous generosity. Our local partners were able to provide emergency shelter, food, warm blankets and winter kits. We are still there, supporting affected families.

Turkey and Syria earthquake - 2023 year in review

Women hug near a collapsed building in Turkey after the devastating earthquake in February 2023.

2. Pope Francis visits DRC and South Sudan

In February CAFOD staff and partners were thrilled to welcome Pope Francis on his long-anticipated visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. He met people forced to flee their homes to escape violence and prayed for peace and an end to division.

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3. Big Lent Walk

In the spring people tied up their laces for our Big Lent Walk which saw thousands of people, including 650 schools, support CAFOD’s work by walking, donating and praying.

Next year’s event is due to be even bigger, as we join our sister agency in Scotland, SCIAF, to encourage people to walk 200km over the 40 days of Lent.

4. Amazing support from Catholic schools

In the last academic year (2022-2023), Catholic schools in England and Wales raised an amazing £610,000 for CAFOD. Thirty-seven more schools achieved the LiveSimply Award – an initiative which sees schools committing to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the world’s poorest.

Jenny Garzón Saavedra, youth worker for our church partner FUNVIPAS in the Colombian Amazon, spoke to 8,000 young Catholics at Wembley Arena in March for Flame – the National Youth Congress.

Potters Bar school and church community show solidarity with Ukraine

Potters Bar school and church community show solidarity with Ukraine as children from Pope Paul Primary School took part in a sponsored walk for CAFOD’s Ukraine Crisis Appeal.

5. World Food Crisis

Droughts and flooding in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan have destroyed farmland, killed livestock and forced millions from their homes.

Thanks to our supporters we have helped communities with urgent supplies of food, water, and seeds resilient against climate change, and we will continue to respond for as long as we are needed.

6. Hope after floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Coastal regions that are home to millions of people have already been irreversibly damaged by climate change, including from rising sea levels and salination of water.

Following floods in Pakistan, we supported mobile health clinics that travelled hundreds of miles to treat people in need of medical help.  Generous donations to our Harvest Appeal will allow us to reach even more people affected by the climate crisis in 2024.

Flooding in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Stories of flood survivors painted onto a truck that also serves as a mobile health clinic.

7. Campaigning to fix the food system

In October we delivered ‘Salina’s letter’ to the World Bank’s UK offices. Salina is a small-holder farmer from Bangladesh who is fighting to keep control of her own seeds. Part of CAFOD’s ongoing Fix the Food System campaign, the letter was signed by 18 Catholic Bishops and over 70,000 Catholics from 750 parishes across England and Wales.

CAFOD campaigners deliver Salina's letter to the World Bank

CAFOD campaigners took Salina's message right to the World Bank in London

8. COP28: An end to fossil fuels?

The publication of Pope Francis’ Laudate Deum was a rallying cry to phase out fossil fuels and to care for our common home. More than 3,000 CAFOD campaigners joined Pope Francis, writing to MPs, joining climate marches and signing petitions urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to stick to the UK’s climate commitments.

At COP28, for the first time international governments pledged to phase down fossil fuels and establish a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. In 2024 we will continue to advocate for a cleaner, more just world.

COP28 march

CAFOD supporters joined calls for leaders at COP28 to commit to urgent action on the climate crisis at a march in London on Saturday 9 December.

9. Ukraine conflict continues

CAFOD is working with our local partners to support those in the hardest-hit frontline areas of the east and south this winter. Their experienced local staff are providing families and individuals in crisis with emergency accommodation, food, water, basic home repairs and medical assistance, alongside mental health support and employment counselling.

10. Israeli-Palestinian Crisis

2023 will no doubt be remembered for the terrible death and destruction over the last few months in Gaza and Israel, and what can appear to be the end of hopes for peace in the region.

But as we join calls for an urgent and permanent ceasefire, we pray that our local partners will soon be able to restart their programmes - from delivering life-saving medical outreach services for vulnerable communities in Gaza, to working tirelessly for peace and a political solution to the crisis.

CAFOD Christmas card 2023

We pray for hope and peace this Christmas

The challenges are set to continue into 2024, with the UN predicting increased displacement, conflict and the continued impact of climate change.

As people of hope, we take heart in our ability to come together as a faith community to stand in solidarity with vulnerable communities. As we look to the new year ahead we thank everyone again for their continued support and wish you a peaceful festive break.