WORLD HEALTH DAY: Salesian health programs give critical access to care
Salesian Missions highlights programs that ensure poor and at-risk youth have access to health care.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 7, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian and other international organizations in honoring World Health Day 2021. In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) held the First World Health Assembly and designated the day to mark the founding of WHO. The first World Health Day was held in 1950. Every year it is celebrated on April 7, serving as an opportunity to draw worldwide attention to a particular theme of importance related to global health.
The theme for World Health Day 2021 is “Building a fairer, healthier world” and highlights the inequalities in health and access to health services due to where people are born, grow, live, work and age. These inequalities have been more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic and the responses to the virus.
The WHO noted, “All over the world, some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, have poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security and health services. This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. And it harms our societies and economies.” WHO is calling on leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health.
Salesian missionaries offer more than 200 medical clinics and hospitals in mostly rural areas around the globe that serve a wide range of medical care needs. Leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s disease, has been a focus of Salesian-run medical clinics for more than 100 years. In many countries with Salesian programs, dental care and other necessary health services are offered to poor youth and their families who might otherwise have no access to health care.
Salesian missionaries have also been responding to the needs of the poor, migrant workers and homeless youth during the pandemic. Salesians provided safety awareness information to their communities about the impact of the virus and prevention tips through online campaigns and posters and banners. Missionaries also started campaigns to raise funds for specific needs like food and health kits. In addition, they mobilized their tailoring centers and students to create masks for local hospitals, community members and those in Salesian programs.
“The work of Salesian missionaries around the globe goes beyond education,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesians aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs. Medical and dental clinics ensure that those who are living in poverty still have access to the medical care they need even when they cannot afford to pay for it.”
On World Health Day 2021, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight medical and health programs that provide critical services to those living in poverty.
Salesian missionaries are working to ensure that families living in Abobo, located between the cities of Gambella and Pugnido in western Ethiopia, have access to the services and resources they need. The majority of the population in Abobo is of Sudanese origin because of its proximity to the border of Sudan. Many people have sought refuge there to escape war and famine. In Ethiopia, where rural poverty is endemic, Sudanese refugees find themselves lost and without support except for the refugee camps that have sprung up around Gambella.
In 2002, a group of Italian and Spanish volunteers set up the Abobo Health Center in collaboration with local Salesian missionaries. Today, the Abobo Health Center serves as a symbol of the community and provides health services for the local villagers. The facility has 40 beds, a small ward dedicated to sick children and those suffering from malnutrition, and a small wing that houses obstetrics. Having expanded its reach over the years, the health clinic serves the approximately 20,000 people living in the area and the 200,000 people in the entire region.
Don Bosco Development Society, the planning and development office in Mumbai Province of India, provides health education for disadvantaged children and youth living in Vadodara, the third largest city in the western Indian State of Gujarat. Health education is critical during the pandemic so children understand the importance of proper hygiene, mask wearing and social distancing.
Don Bosco Development Society has been on the forefront of support for people who have been impacted by the pandemic and resulting lockdowns. From providing health education and launching awareness campaigns to providing food relief and hygiene items, Salesians have been in their communities working to support those most in need.
The Don Bosco Health Center, part of the St. Vincent de Paul Parish and the Don Bosco Gumbo community in Gumbo, South Sudan, is caring for the sick while working to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Don Bosco Health Center was launched in 2012 with the support of the Caritas Sisters of Jesus. Initially, about 30 patients were seen a day in three small rooms. Today, the Don Bosco Health Center is treating up to 200 patients each day on average.
The health center provides essential services to people in villages who don’t otherwise have access to medical care. Gumbo is located at the center of 20 villages along the left bank of the Nile River, while the town of Juba and other villages are on the right bank. There are no proper hospitals or dispensaries in any of these 20 villages. The nearest one is the hospital of Juba.
Since opening the health center, services have been expanded to meet a growing need. In addition to the primary office location, there are now mobile clinics, a HIV/AIDS rehabilitation program, a nutrition program and child health care. Medical care has become even more essential in the face of the pandemic.
Salesian missionaries in Makululu, Zambia, are planning to build a House of Hope for street children with addictions and those dealing with mental health issues. The house will care for children 8-15 years old. It will be built next to an existing Salesian house, known as Ciloto, which in the local language of Bemba means dream.
The project involves the construction of the house, a residential building, bathrooms and a water well. Funding is needed for the purchase of necessary equipment and the provision of food and assistance for at least 10 youth. The program will run 24 hours a day and offer individual psychological therapy and psychiatric treatment.
“The new House of Hope will be the first step in the process of recovery for children with the goal of reintegration into society,” explained a Salesian missionary from the Don Bosco Salesian Missionary Foundation in Warsaw, Poland, which sponsors the project. “The children will be examined by a psychologist and psychiatrist and then will be able to access the necessary treatments and therapies. The expected length of stay will be three to six months. Depending on their progress, the children will then be transferred to the existing Ciloto House where social reintegration will continue.”
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