As an immediate sign of his concern and an encouragement to other donors, Pope Francis has sent $50,000 each to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to assist with initial emergency relief efforts after a cyclone hit the region and caused massive flooding.
As of March 22, at least 300 people were known to have died, thousands have been injured and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The dicastery, which will distribute the aid from the pope through the Vatican nunciatures in each country, said the week of torrential rain in the region has "razed to the ground tens of thousands of homes and public buildings" and made major roads impassable.
The water and electricity distribution systems have been compromised and there is a growing concern about the spread of diseases, particularly through unclean water.
The Vatican described Pope Francis' donation as a "first contribution" and "an immediate expression of his feeling of spiritual closeness" to the people impacted.
In addition, it noted, the contribution is only "part of the aid that is being gathered throughout the Catholic Church" from bishops' conferences and charitable organizations.