“In addition to prayer, we give free masks to less privileged”: Church in Ivory Coast

A vendor selling face masks in Ivory's Coast economic capital, Abidjan.

The Catholic Church in the West African nation of Ivory Coast has started the distribution of face masks to members of society considered “less privileged and vulnerable” in an exercise meant to complement daily prayers, the Secretary General of the Bishops’ conference has said.

“In this multifaceted struggle, everyone brings something to the table. And the minimum we can bring is first of all the prayer we say every day for the whole of humanity that is suffering; but in addition to prayer we have decided to give free masks to people who are less privileged and vulnerable,” the Secretary General of CECCI, Fr. Emmanuel Wohi Nin said during the launch of the distribution exercise Thursday, April 16.

According to Fr. Wohi, the distribution exercise will see the team involved going to dwellings of the beneficiaries.

“We are going to move from door to door to distribute these 500 masks in order to keep these people safe from this COVID-19 pandemic,” the Ivorian Cleric said.

With at least 688 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the country, Ivory Coast is the country with the highest number of cases in West Africa; 193 patients have recovered and six have died.

Authorities in Ivory Coast through a decree signed Wednesday, April 15, extended a nationwide state of emergency to at least April 30 as part of measures to halt the spread of coronavirus disease, Worldaware reported.

“This decree extends the state of emergency declared on 23 March 2020, throughout the national territory, for a further period from 15 to 30 April 2020, in order to consolidate the operational mechanism of prevention and care of the sick,” said the government’s spokesman Sidi Tiémoko Touré.

The extension forms part of a series of measures enforced by the government in recent weeks.

Among the measures include the compulsory wearing of face masks in the city of Abidjan, guaranteeing their free availability, starting from health personnel and defense and security forces.

 “Wearing a mask is essential to reducing the risk of the spread of COVID-19, with a state of emergency in place in our country we hope these masks will help those who cannot afford it to survive during this period,” Fr Wohi said during the April 16 launch of the free masks for the needy.

“If our country must avoid a Europe-style disaster, the population should continue to apply measures prescribed by our bishops and the government, (Staying home, hand washing, use of antiseptics and disinfectants, and social distancing...) and above all, the compulsory wearing of masks by the population in all public places,” he added.

In providing face masks for free to the less privileged and vulnerable persons, CECCI Secretary general said, “the Catholic Church is therefore participating in efforts to limit the spread of the virus in Ivory Coast.”

“Our message at this time of the joy of the Risen Christ, is for Christians to continue to pray for an end to this pandemic; we also need to show solidarity to the less privileged living among us,” the Ivorian Cleric said and concluded, “It is together that we can conquer coronavirus.”

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

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