, 30 June, 2020 / 10:24 PM
The plight of more than 400 women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who can no longer meet their financial obligations in their respective savings and credit groups amid COVID-19 restrictions is a cause for concern for the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) serving in the Central African nation.
The women are part of the 20 groups run by the Association Villageoise d’Epargne et Crédit (AVEC) that partners with the Salesians at Don Bosco Center in the Archdiocese of Bukavu, located in eastern DRC.
“These associations are an effective means of allowing members to better prepare themselves economically for a disaster such as COVID-19,” the leadership of Don Bosco Center has said in a report published by Mission Newswire, the official news service of Salesian Missions.
In the June 29 report, the leadership adds, “Unfortunately, most members live day by day and use the money from the AVEC group for activities that guarantee little more than survival.”
The March 19 COVID-19 restrictions that banned gatherings of more than 20 people have affected the groups whose individual membership ranges between 20-45 people. Some groups suspended their activities altogether while others reduced the number of participants.
As a result, members are currently having difficulty repaying their credit or putting something aside, the leadership of the Salesians says and adds, “For security reasons, some have suspended income-generating activities even if they have credit to repay. Others are prioritizing food costs.”
Among the affected women is 53-year-old Adidja Sikambwe who sells fried bananas on the street and whose revenue has gone down due to COVID-19 restrictions that have limited her customers.
With her business risking bankruptcy considering the more pressing needs to provide for her family’s survival, neither can Sikambwe repay her credit from the AVEC group nor can she make any financial savings, the leadership of the Salesians reports.
Failure to repay her loan, the Salesians observe, will have a ripple economic effect on the other members of her group since there will not be sufficient funds to meet the demands of the others in need of credit. The entire group risks bankruptcy.
“Many of the women who seek to join the AVEC groups and are supported by the Don Bosco Center were already in desperate situations before the pandemic started and have been pushed now to greater vulnerability,” the Director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr. Gus Baek has been quoted as saying.
He adds, “The Don Bosco Center helps these women and their families by meeting their basic needs and providing education and social support. The goal is to help these women so they can recover and have an income of their own to give their children the hope of a better tomorrow.”
SDB members who have been ministering in DRC for over a century have been keen on ensuring that the most vulnerable children in the Central African nation are not forgotten.
Meanwhile, SDB members ministering in Ethiopia have partnered with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International to foster youth and family apostolate. The partnership involves a financial subsidy of US$16,705.00 provided by ACN, the 73-year-old international Catholic pastoral charitable organization that exists to “support the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need, through information, prayer and action.”
The Salesians have a base at Our Lady Help of Christians, Adwa Parish in the Diocese of Adrigat in northern part of Ethiopia. They minister to a community of some 220 Catholic faithful, most of them living “a hand-to-mouth existence.”
“The average monthly income of most families is equivalent to between 35 and 70 US dollars, which is barely enough to survive on. In addition, there are many problems in the families and they need a great deal of support,” ACN leadership reported Tuesday, June 30 in reference to the Catholic faithful at Adwa Parish in Ethiopia.
“The Salesians base their work upon three main pillars – helping the children, the young people and the families. It is crucially important work, and ACN is proposing to help with a contribution of 14,875 Euros for the current year,” ACN leadership published in the June 30 report.
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.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa