, 19 August, 2020 / 9:06 PM
On the occasion of this year’s World Humanitarian Day marked Wednesday, August 19, members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) have, through a report by their U.S.-based development office, looked back at their various interventions around the world including two countries in Africa.
The focus of this year’s World Humanitarian Day, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is “what drives humanitarians to continue to save and protect lives despite conflict, insecurity, lack of access and risks linked to COVID-19.”
“(Salesian) missionaries are on the forefront of humanitarian efforts, including the ongoing response to coronavirus, in more than 132 countries around the globe. They provide immediate assistance during humanitarian crises as well as help rebuilding communities and restoring livelihoods,” the August 18 report by the leadership of the New York-based Salesian Missions shared with ACI Africa indicates.
In the report, the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek, notes that Salesian Clerics, Sisters and Lay volunteers who live among the people of God they serve “are perfectly positioned to respond in times of humanitarian crisis.”
“Salesian missionaries are providing food, hygiene kits and other supplies. They have also launched campaigns to spread awareness and ensure that people are taking prevention measures,” Fr. Gus says in reference to the interventions by members of SDB in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
Looking back at their humanitarian interventions in the East African nation of Burundi, officials of Salesian Missions recall the hand-washing initiative with thousands of beneficiaries at a parish under the leadership of SDB members.
“The Salesian Parish in Rukago, Burundi, has access to hand-washing stations thanks to funding from Salesian Missions. This project, which benefited 65,000 people in the parish and local community, provided hand-washing stations in eight churches, 15 schools and the Don Bosco Oratory,” the leadership of Salesian Missions says in the August 18 report.
In the report, Salesian Fr. Raphaël Katanga is quoted as saying, “Installing hand-washing stations in front of churches, offices, schools and playgrounds is an effective means of fighting the coronavirus pandemic while giving the local population the hope of living.”
The Salesians in Burundi have also been able to support vulnerable families who were at risk of facing food shortage due to the limited circulation of goods and people, Fr. Raphaël says.
They have also inaugurated a two-story building for the Maison Cana Orphanage managed by the Daughters of Mary – Our Lady of Cana.
In Malawi, Salesian Missions has facilitated the procurement of maize to feed needy families.
“Salesian Missions prompt response helped us to mobilize and assist the people that needed help most,” the Parish Priest of St. Don Bosco Parish in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe, Fr. Mulenga Oswald says in the August 18 report.
Fr. Mulenga adds, “In total, 382 families received the maize. At the Don Bosco Church, 280 families from 28 small Christian communities benefited along with families connected to Salesian centers in Mbunu, Kundi, Kangonoma, Chipeni and more.”
The members of SDB at the Don Bosco Youth Center in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, also offer counselling workshops, seminars and educational literature, addressing the multiple challenges that young people face in the area.
Young people are also equipped with life skills training. They are also oriented in strategies to avoid high-risk behaviour such as substance abuse and gang participation, officials of Salesian Missions say in the August 18 report.
Established by the UN in 2009 to coincide with 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq that killed at least 22 people, including the chief humanitarian in the country, World Humanitarian Day recognizes humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work.
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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.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa