, 15 August, 2020 / 11:30 PM
Members of Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) ministering in Zambia and South Sudan are realizing feeding programs in the two African countries through a food donation initiative, which Salesian Missions, the U.S.-based development arm of SDB is facilitating, a report sent to ACI Africa indicates.
In Zambia, a rice donation was delivered to Mary Help of Christians Centre in the Archdiocese of Kasama in May for distribution to needy families.
The donation was realized in partnership with “Feed My Starving Children,” a non-profit Christian organization committed to “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.”
“The rice is the manna that we have waited for to help people. It’s normal for us to see poor children in need of nutrition but with the pandemic, many people are struggling,” Sr. Godelive who serves at the Mary Help of Christians Centre in Zambia’s Kasama Archdiocese says in the Thursday, August 13 report, which Salesian Missions Media Representative, Hannah Gregory shared with ACI Africa.
The Salesian nun adds referencing her community members at the Centre, “We have many people coming to our door to beg for food. The rice is a solution for us. It allows us to help the poor who knock at our door.”
Among the beneficiaries, Sr. Godelive says, are workers at the Centre, who use the rice to nourish their children. She adds that amid COVID-19 pandemic, “most people have found themselves without work. Therefore, when they receive rice, they can at least have a meal in a day.”
“The rice I receive for my family I keep for my youngest child. It helps him to have good health and be strong,” Geoffrey Mulenga, a worker at the Centre has been quoted as saying in the August 13 Salesian Missions report.
The Sisters are also using the rice donation to feed at-risk youths such as 22-year-old Beauty Mwansa, an orphan who lives with her grandmother and her siblings.
“We do daily wage work to survive, but in the face of the pandemic that is no longer possible and we have been very hungry,” Beauty says and adds, “The Salesian Sisters have been supporting me through school and have provided meals for my family. It has helped all of us to survive this pandemic.”
Other beneficiaries of the rice donation are pupils at a local school who, Sr. Godelive says, are from the “poorest families.”
The food is sometimes cooked and the pupils eat at schools. At other times, the rice is packed and the pupils carry the rice packs home “to share with their family,” Sr. Godelive says.
The Salesian nuns have also shared the rice donation with the Sisters of the Child Jesus who are working in health centers and have communities with orphans, blind children and people who are albino, the report by Salesian Missions Media Representative, Ms. Gregory indicates.
Meanwhile, in South Sudan, the leadership of Salesian Missions is facilitating nutritional support for 275 displaced families hosted at the Don Bosco Gumbo Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country’s capital, Juba.
“Each person received 10 kg of ground flour, 1 kg of salt, 1 liter of cooking oil and 5 kgs of beans per month,” Ms. Gregory says in the August 13 report, adding that Salesians at the camp “were also able to distribute plastic roofing sheets, blankets, floor mats, soap and sanitary plastic jugs to 275 of the most vulnerable households.”
The spread of COVID-19 in South Sudan, the New York-based Media Representative says, “has made the situation in the camp more difficult.”
“The virus is happening during the lean season in the country when food insecurity is always at its worst,” she explains.
“The humanitarian situation in the country is predicted to worsen in the coming months as a result of COVID-19, the desert locust invasion and continued inter-communal violence,” Ms. Gregory reports.
“We are appreciative of our donors who help us ensure Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Gumbo who are caring for the most vulnerable have the food and supplies they need,” the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek has been quoted as saying in the August 13 report shared with ACI Africa.
Established in January 2014 after the outbreak of civil war in December 2013, Don Bosco Gumbo camp is home to 9,742 people, the majority being “women and children with no husbands or fathers, the elderly, and orphans.”
In an interview with ACI Africa last month, the Salesian Priest at the helm of the camp expressed “fear” for IDPs if the coronavirus would find its way into the camp.
“A major concern we have is the fear of COVID-19 cases in the IDP camp. It would be a real disaster and we are not at all prepared to face such challenges given the situation of our country and its health infrastructure,” Fr. George Shyjan who manages the finances of St. Bakhita Delegation and serves as the Director of the Planning and Development office that handles the day to day affairs of the IDP camp told ACI Africa July 10.
The Indian-born Cleric further said that as SDB members at the facility, they had taken “all necessary precautions from the very start of the pandemic by providing handwashing facilities in all the entry and exit points of the IDP camp.”
Other precautionary measures that have been implemented at the camp include provision of soap and other hygiene materials to all households inside the camp, regular sensitization programs to make the IDPs aware of the dangers of the pandemic as well as preventive measures, Fr. George told ACI Africa during the July 10 interview.
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