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How Salesian Development Initiative is Facilitating Fight Against COVID-19 in Africa

The Burundi Oratory Youths Food Aid to Slow Down COVID-19 Outbreak Effect project. Credit: Salesian Missions

The leadership of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), has, in a report, outlined initiatives the entity has undertaken in facilitating the fight against COVID-19 in African countries.

In the Wednesday, June 2 report obtained by ACI Africa, officials of the New York-based organization say, “When the global COVID-19 pandemic struck and countries began lockdowns, Salesian missionaries around the globe went into action ensuring that those who were impacted in their local communities had the food and hygiene supplies they needed.”

They add, “Missionaries also quickly began to shift how they worked with poor children and their families, including working to provide education online when possible.”

“To aid these efforts, significant funding was needed,” the leadership of the Salesian Missions says, with the Director, Fr. Gus Baek being quoted as saying, “Most of these projects were stop-gap measures designed to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable members of communities.”

According to Fr. Baek, children and the sick were prioritized, the entity having sought to facilitate the provision of “food and hygiene supplies.”

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“The majority of the funding went to help children, followed by those who were sick,” he said.

He explained, “Salesians work in the communities they serve and are well-positioned to not only know the local needs but to also understand what is needed most. As a result, our primary initiatives were food and hygiene supplies to ensure that families had enough to eat and were taking prevention measures to help mitigate the COVID-19 virus.”

In South Sudan, Salesian Missions has facilitated “emergency Intervention at IDP Camp, Gumbo, during COVID-19 Pandemic.

Under this initiative in the world’s youngest nation, food support for 275 families was realized, the primary beneficiaries being the elderly, women, and people with disabilities.

“Additionally, the project funded sanitization measures in the camp, benefiting more than 10,000 people, primarily women and children,” officials of Salesian Missions add in reference to the initiatives in South Sudan.

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In Burundi, Salesian Missions facilitated the realization of the “Burundi Oratory Youths Food Aid to Slow Down COVID-19 Outbreak Effect project.”

“In addition to installing hand-washing stations at the entrances of classrooms, chapels, and dining rooms, volunteers also produced and installed informational posters and held training on proper hand-washing,” the leadership of Salesian Missions explains in the June 2 report.

They add in reference to the Burundi initiatives, “More than 1,500 beneficiaries also received direct food assistance. The project indirectly benefited 67,000 people through increased sanitization measures at three youth centers and awareness campaigns.”

In the Central African nation of Cameroon, Salesian Missions officials say they facilitated the “Emergency Assistance for Students in Emergency Situations Due to Coronavirus Pandemic.”

Through the sanitization of Don Bosco College and the Vocational Training Center in Cameroon, the initiative had 1,000 students and 100 staff among the beneficiaries.

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“These spaces are also utilized by the parish of Mary Help of Christians in Mimboman, which has 4,000 parishioners. It also directly benefited 420 families and 50 students through school scholarships,” Salesian Missions officials further say in reference to their intervention in Cameroon.

They have also realized “a joint collaborative project with Salesians in South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho.”

In Eswatini, the officials say, the joint initiative “benefited more than 100 families from the Manzini Youth Care, which included a home for children who had been living on the street. These children and families received essential food aid to help ensure proper nutrition.”

The U.S.-based Salesian entity has facilitated help to refugees in Kenya, particularly through the initiative dubbed, “Rescuing Kakuma Young Refugees from the COVID-19 Menace,” a project that provided food and personal protective equipment for refugees, as well as sanitization for the refugees at the Kenyan camp. 

“More than 2,000 households were directly or indirectly impacted by the project, including students, parishioners and residents of 10 outstations,” they say in reference to the Kenyan initiative, and add, “More than 72 percent of the funding was used to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable young refugee families.”

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Another joint collaborative project that Salesian Missions helped realize in partnership with Salesians in South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho “benefited 200 families at St. Luke’s Mission, which includes the parish community, St. Luke’s and St. Boniface’s schools, the Mazzarello Skills Centre, and the Ferrando Resource Center for Differently Abled Children.”

“In South Africa, the project benefited 650 families in South Africa in two communities associated with the Salesian schools. The project supported students and their families in Ennerdale/Johannesburg and Cape Town and the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church Parish community in Cape Town,” the leadership of Salesian Missions says in the June 2 report.

Vulnerable groups in the West African nation of Togo, received COVID-19 assistance thanks to an initiative that benefited approximately 500 youth, vulnerable adults, and the elderly. 

“The project successfully distributed food and masks to the most vulnerable members of Maria Auxiliadora Parish and established sanitization measures in the community,” Salesian officials say in reference to the initiative in Togo.