The trip scheduled for this Wednesday will see the head of the Catholic church spend most of the September 4-10 in Mozambique and Madagascar and briefly visit Mauritius at the end.
His message on climate change has been inspired by the Amazon forest fires in Brazil. The pope is now calling for urgent actions to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.
Rampant deforestation has plagued Mozambique and Madagascar. Deforestation, along with soil erosion, made Mozambique more vulnerable when two cyclones hit the country this year.
According to the World Bank, Mozambique has lost 8 million hectares of forest, about the size of Portugal, since the 1970s.
In Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, about 44% of forests have disappeared over the past 60 years, according to the French agricultural research center CIRAD. The environmental danger there is aggravated because 80% of its plant and animal species are not found anywhere else.
Poverty, war and corruption will also loom large during the trip which is his second in the Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), 80% of Mozambique’s population of about 30 million cannot afford the minimum costs for an adequate diet.
The WFP says more than 90% of Madagascar’s population of 26 million live on less than $2.00 a day and chronic child malnutrition is widespread.
Francis is also calling for a fairer distribution of wealth between prosperous and developing countries and defended the right of countries to control their mineral resources.
“We must invest in Africa, but invest in an orderly way and create employment, not go there to exploit it,” the pope told Reuters in an interview last year.
“When a country grants independence to an African country it is from the ground up – but the subsoil is not independent. And then people (outside Africa) complain about hungry Africans coming here. There are injustices there!” he said.
Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, emerged from 15 years of civil war in 1992 but it was only last month that President Filipe Nyusi of the ruling Frelimo party and the leader of the Renamo opposition, Ossufo Momade, signed a permanent cease-fire.