A FUNERAL company is collecting unwanted underwear to help vulnerable women in Africa.

Co-operative Funeralcare, in Shildon, is supporting the Knickers 4 Africa charity, which sends underwear and baby clothes to women in the poorest parts of the continent, who cannot afford to buy such items.

Barbara Bates, from the branch, said: “We read about women and girls in Africa who cannot afford underwear, which is considered to be a luxury, leaving them vulnerable to sexual abuse.

“We collect for other charities too and people in Shildon always donate generously.”

The knickers must be new and bras should be in good condition.

The appeal was launched by the mayor of Shildon, Gareth Howe, during a fundraising coffee morning to replace raffle money which was stolen during a break-in at the Children in Distress charity shop, on Church Street, earlier this month.

Coun Howe encouraged people to support the appeal but condemned those who stole the raffle money, which has not been recovered.

“It is terrible to steal from a charity,” he said. “The money raised from this event should have been extra for the shop alongside the raffle money.”